The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday in favor of streamlining an executive order signed by the mayor last week aimed at making it easier for restaurants to serve food outdoors following the county's decision to once again shutter inside dining.
Indoor dining services were halted for at least three weeks, retroactive to the start of last week, after San Diego County's rising coronavirus case load and community outbreak statistics landed it on the state's monitoring list.
The next day, Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an executive order allowed restaurants to install dining areas on sidewalks, patios, and even adjacent parking lots without having to apply for permits, which can cost up to $1,000 and take several months to be processed and approved, according to Faulconer.
"Two key tools to help slow the spread of the virus are open-air environments and physical distance," Mayor Faulconer said during his announcement. "This executive order makes it easier for restaurants to do both.”
Tuesday's vote by the city council extends similar leeway to the business sector. Shops can now use private parking lots, sidewalks and adjacent on-street parking space to service customers and the majority of permit fees have been waived, according to the city.
“Our local restaurant and retail owners have shown incredible resolve and resilience throughout this pandemic. Many of those small businesses have been among the hardest hit and San Diegans are ready to support them safely and responsibly,” Mayor Faulconer said. “The response we’ve seen to outdoor dining has been overwhelmingly positive, and this ordinance opens up so many more options for our small businesses as they work hard to rebound and recover.”
The new ordinance also allocates $300,000 to offset permit costs for the first 500 businesses that apply and subsidize permit costs for remaining applicants. A portion of the $300,000 is earmarked for "outreach and education on the program for small and disadvantaged businesses," the city said.
Outreach will take place through a partnership with the Strategic Alliance of San Diego Ethnic Chambers of Commerce, consisting of the Asian Business Association of San Diego, the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Outdoor dining and retail areas are not exempt from ADA requirements and also have to comply with existing state and county requirements, like those barring live music and smoking or vaping.
When indoor dining was closed for the second time, indoor activities in bars, family entertainment centers, museums and restaurants were also ordered to cease for at least three weeks.