San Diego restaurants will have more time to bring outdoor dining sections up to code after the city decided to extend that deadline to Aug. 2.
Some business owners wonder why enforcement is coming now, but the city fire marshal said some structures pose a safety risk and make it harder for firefighters to get hoses and ladder trucks to buildings.
“We’re held to a standard by the council that says we’ll get to a majority of our calls within 7.5 minutes,” San Diego Fire Marshal Doug Perry said. “When we have to go slower or it’s harder for us to maneuver, that elongates; we don’t meet our response time.”
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
Perry said in February, 2-4 unoccupied dining sections collapsed in Pacific Beach and even a massive permitted tent blew down in Rancho Bernardo.
Sean Shoja owns Il Sogno Italiano. He says he paid $20,000 for his parklet that has a roof he doesn’t want to take down
“I prefer not to, absolutely not, why would I take the roof off if you know it’s creating shade and security, you know, a sense of security and a safety net for the guests,” Shoja said.
Walk along any popular street in the city and you’ll see some of the many outdoor patios that were built over parking spaces and on streets over the last year. Al fresco dining was a lifeline to many restaurants during the height of the pandemic and lucky for small restaurant owners, eateries were given the OK to create outdoor patios as long as they had proper licenses.
“It was survival-bility,” Thomas Patterson, manager of North Park restaurant The Barn. “All the seats we have indoors, we were able to put out here. Our bartenders, our cooks, we were able to keep employed and keep the business going.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the city issued more than 400 permits for businesses to expand their services into parking spaces and sidewalks. It was a crucial component in helping businesses survive since California imposed limited capacity for indoor services for months due to the pandemic.
Top concerns on the city's radar include unpermitted structures, propane heaters under tents and wooden ceilings, businesses blocking red curbs along the sidewalk and businesses not conforming with their original issued permit.
The fire marshal is also looking for electrical issues, such as extension cords stretched over sidewalks and improperly wired lights, heaters, and even televisions.
The city initially said in May that staffers would be going door to door to businesses to inform and educate restaurant owners of upcoming code enforcement. That enforcement began Tuesday to ensure all violations would be corrected or removed.
Businesses will get 30 days to get in compliance. If they refuse, they could be fined $100/day and possibly lose their permit.
Keeping the outdoor dining areas as a permanent fixture is under consideration, but discussions for that possibility remain ongoing.