San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an emergency Executive Order on Tuesday that will help local restaurants expand their outdoor dining options.
The order, effective immediately, was signed the same day the county put a halt on in-door dining services for three weeks in response to the regions increasing coronavirus cases and community outbreaks.
The decision to shut down indoor dining, and other indoor activities, came after the county landed the state’s monitoring list for three consecutive days. The triggers that put the county on the list included an increase in community outbreaks; 22 outbreaks over a seven day stretch were reported Monday, of which 16 were tied to restaurants or bars.
"Two key tools to help slow the spread of the virus are open-air environments and physical distance," Mayor Faulconer said. "This executive order makes it easier for restaurants to do both.”
The order will do so by allowing restaurants to install dining areas on sidewalks, patios, and even adjacent parking lots without having to apply for permits. Those permits can cost up to $1,000 and take several months to be processed and approved, according to Faulconer.
"We’re taking San Diego and bringing it closer to the sun with outdoor restaurant operations," city Development Services Director Elyse Lowe said.
Outdoor eating ares are not exempt from ADA requirements, Lowe said. They'll also have to comply with existing state and county requirements, like those barring live music and smoking or vaping.
Falconer's order went into effect immediately and will remain until the City Council approves an outdoor business proposal that will waive fees and streamline permitting for city-wide outdoor dining.
Street-side dining in areas like Little Italy, Liberty Station and Gaslamp Quarter began last month, and before Tuesday some neighborhoods were waiting on area-specific permits that will allow them to participate in the al fresco dining experience.
The owner of a restaurant in Hillcrest accused the city of responding to permit requests slowly, telling NBC 7 on Monday he was ready to establish an outdoor dining area weeks ago.
“We’re closed. Our dining room’s closed,” said Stefan Chicotle, owner of Baja Betty’s. “I mean, I can’t even take my tables outside for something I was prepared for two weeks ago.”
Indoor activities in bars, family entertainment centers, museums and restaurants were also ordered to cease for at least three weeks.