Downtown Encinitas is the next spot to try its hand at the streetside dining trend emerging in San Diego communities as restaurants try to bounce back from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The City of Encinitas said the city council has approved a plan to convert one lane of traffic in each direction along South Coast Highway 101 into an area that will allow restaurants and small businesses to extend their dining rooms and retail displays into the street.
The dining and shopping offerings, which can start on Friday, will have to comply with county COVID-19 safety requirements for the plan to work, the city said.
The project in Encinitas is dubbed the “Downtown Shared Streets Program.” At first, the streetside dining and shopping space will be located along South Coast Highway 101 between D and E streets. The city said it may extend to additional blocks in the downtown area in the future.
"The community really wants to support local businesses. And we have too many cars here on the coast anyway," said patron Monica Szepesy. "The ability to not necessarily get more tables, but to be able to space people out is going to be very helpful."
The city said new wheel stops will be placed in each parking space to create the new al fresco dining and shopping zone. The project is partially funded by a grant from SANDAG.
“Barricades and large boxed trees will be placed at interval to further delineate the dining and retail area and help create a sense of place,” the city explained.
The temporary installations will be completed next week, with plans to open beginning on Fourth of July weekend. The streetside dining area will remain intact until physical distancing is no longer necessary, the city said.
"It just makes it fun because we’ve all been cooped up and we’re getting ready to go outside and be able to live life a little bit and sharing food is one of the easiest ways to do it," said Szepesy.
The idea to offer this outdoor hub in downtown Encinitas first came about in May, just as California Governor Gavin Newsom gave the green light for restaurants to reopen their dining rooms amid the pandemic.
Last week, the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego launched its version of a streetside dining program along a part of Fifth Avenue, with restaurants like barleymash, El Chingon and Café Sevilla being the first to take part in extending their dining areas into the street.
A week before that, Little Italy became the first community in San Diego to launch a streetside dining initiative along a stretch of India Street.
Listen to the “Scene in San Diego ft. Eater” podcast to learn more about this trend.