Restaurant capacity at the Gaslamp Quarter will increase beginning Thursday thanks to a program that will temporarily shut down a few streets in the bustling downtown area so patrons can maintain social distancing while dining-in at eateries.
Last week, bars in San Diego were given the green light to reopen under some restrictions. However, sidewalks were crowded with people queued up, waiting to enter some establishments as they operated under limited capacity. The “Curbside Gaslamp” operation aims to remedy that issue by allowing restaurants to expand their capacity with more outdoor dining.
The “Curbside Gaslamp” operation will shut down Fifth Avenue from Market Street to L Street so dine-in customers can eat outside on the street. Later this summer, the operation will extend L Street to Broadway.
“We’re gonna re-create a little outside area," said Louis Celliccia, director of operations at El Chingon Mexican restaurant. "We have astroturf, we have palm trees, we’re gonna put them up with some tables and we’re just going to create a great outdoor experience.”
A permit that will allow the street closures will be signed at 9 a.m. Thursday and the hours of operation will be as followed:
- Thursday and Friday: 3 p.m. to midnight;
- Saturday: noon to midnight;
- Sunday through Wednesday: normal traffic flow.
“This is great. This is like the best social distancing ever. The outside street festival, fake grass. I mean, what more do you want?” said Guillermo Macias a Gaslamp diner. “It's better than being locked up at home, that’s for sure.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the program is the right step in getting local restaurants back on track after the coronavirus pandemic impacted the economy.
“We also know that the last thing what these small businesses need as they recover is another bill to pay," Faulconer said at a press conference on Thursday. "So, we are waiving the permit fees for hundreds of businesses so they can apply free of charge."
Faulconer also said in addition to waiving fees, the city will also cut its approval process from months to days so restaurants will be able to participate in the curbside program sooner. For more details on how to apply for a permit, click here.
In Litte Italy, India Street was transformed to allow outdoor dining in a similar operation. The al fresco dining program debuted this past weekend.