George Lambert's sun-blond hair and deep tan are a testimony to a lifetime spent in Huntington Beach.
Lambert, 39, has worked at one Main Street shop or another since he was 21. He has seen the area become a national tourist attraction, and he's watched thousands of tattooed teens in bikini tops, tank tops and no tops share the narrow sidewalks with senior citizens out for an afternoon constitutional.
He has also been around long enough to have heard years of talk about closing portions of Main Street to create a pedestrian mall similar to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade or Santa Ana's downtown Artists Village.
"It's not a bad idea," Lambert said. "It might help some of the merchants on other streets too."
Indeed, for many retailers and residents, the question really isn't whether to close the street, it's how.
The City Council finally seems ready to get on board. Members asked city staff last week to create a plan to close Main Street, most likely between Olive Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, on a trial basis. Officials could decide to close the blocks permanently if the pilot project is successful.
"It'll bring a lot more of our citizens down there," Councilman David Sullivan said. "It'll make it a much more pleasant experience."
Yet merchants and residents caution that the city needs to spend the time and money to do it right.
Ron McLin, manager of the Longboard Restaurant & Pub, has heard other closure proposals over the years.
While he is in favor of a promenade, he wants a long-term plan. "We can't just put barriers at both ends of the street and call it a promenade," he said. Signs, parking, landscaping, benches and kiosks would be needed to make the area attractive, he said, and plans to redirect traffic would need to be drawn up.
Scott Rinehart, 44, a lifetime resident and owner of a pet supply boutique, said a promenade would attract more businesses, including franchise stores: "It'd be great to have a Gap on Main Street."
Rinehart said Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade was fun and a good model for Huntington Beach: "You don't have to worry about cars; you just stroll."
Shopper Carol Speaker , a 32-year city resident, said closing Main Street should have been done years ago. "It would bring more people," she said. "More people means more business."
Speaker, 62, said she would like to see a repaved street, benches and kiosks -- all of which would put an end to drivers cruising the street. "I would like to eat outside without breathing exhaust fumes," she said.
Not every merchant is taken with the idea. Moe Abdelmuti, 23, manager of Jack's Surfboards, dislikes the idea not only because he thinks it would send business to areas where parking is more accessible, but also because it would end cruising. Main Street, he said, is "a place to show off your cars."
But Lambert doesn't believe closing the street will hurt business. "You can't drive cars down the street on the weekends anyway," he said, because of heavy traffic.