In Pandemic Times, ‘Dine Diego' Takes Over San Diego Restaurant Week 2020

San Diego Restaurant Week, a beloved annual September dining event, will take a break in its traditional form as public health restrictions continue to impact San Diego’s restaurant scene

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Like most local events in 2020, San Diego Restaurant Week will be much different this time around due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Something called "Dine Diego" will temporarily take its place.

Normally, the biannual 8-day dining event showcases more than 180 restaurants offering prix fixe lunch and dinner deals. It’s a way for locals to try that new restaurant they’ve been eyeballing without spending too much.

San Diego Restaurant Week’s (SDRW) first round of 2020 went on as normal in January. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic had reached San Diego County.

Now, the fall edition of the foodie event -- typically slated for late September -- has had to change course.

SDRW organizers said the event – in its traditional form, at least – will take mini hiatus.

After all, the current San Diego Public Health Order still calls for indoor dining rooms to operate at 25% capacity. Restaurants can also serve customers on patios or makeshift outdoor dining areas, or offer takeout and delivery.

These restrictions continue to pose challenges on restaurants and the reality is, not every eatery can effectively operate this way.

A hugely important event each year for San Diego's restaurant industry kicks off this week and it may be more valuable to local restaurants than ever. NBC 7 photojournalist Calvin Pierce spoke to Chef Ken Irvine about how much the support means.

So, instead of the traditional SDRW (which was set for Sept. 27 to Oct. 4), organizers said something called “Dine Diego” will run in its place from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

“Dine Diego will feature San Diego’s top eateries showcasing all the current offerings for outdoor dining, to-go options and unique, in-house promotions,” organizers said.

The event’s very pandemic-era slogan is, “Dine Al Fresco. Dine To Go. Dine Diego.”

Dine Diego – which is also supported by the California Restaurant Association and the San Diego Tourism Authority – will take over SDRW’s longtime website and its social media platforms to promote the local restaurant industry and safe dining.

Normally, SDRW charges eateries a fee to participate in Restaurant Week, but organizers said those fees have been waived and “restaurants have the flexibility to highlight their current in-house promotion, special and unique offers.”

With those changes, SDRW said it expects more than 150 restaurants to take part in Dine Diego. In SDRW style, those eateries will span about a dozen neighborhoods across the county – north, south, east and west.

Just like traditional SDRW, foodies don’t need tickets for this dining event. Just hop on the website, find a restaurant that looks good and go.

Organizers said the website will host a Bingo-style dining game, too, with a chance to win a San Diego staycation prize. Also, via Dine Diego’s social media campaign, there’s a prize up for grabs that includes a year of free dining in San Diego, which will be given in the form of 52 gift certificates to enjoy at local restaurants. You can learn all about the contests here.

The SDRW website is also currently supporting Restaurants Care, an organization dedicated to helping the most vulnerable employees in the restaurant industry. Restaurants Care is accepting donations for an emergency fund for restaurant workers who are suffering financial hardship due to pandemic closures and restrictions. Donations will help cover basic needs like food, gas, utilities and rent for restaurant workers, according to that organization.

And with that, let’s eat (safely, with face masks, social distance and respect for others), San Diego.

Listen/subscribe to the Scene in San Diego podcast to get the latest local lifestyle stories and news from our local food and drink scene. As we continue to adjust to life (back and forth, back and forth) in these times of the coronavirus pandemic, the way we enjoy our city has changed. We’ll keep you up to speed on how those changes impact the things you love to do in our city. Tap here to find Scene in San Diego wherever you listen to podcasts.

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