Continuing to deliver relief to San Diegans impacted by COVID-19, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer was joined Thursday by Little Italy Association and Downtown San Diego Partnership representatives to introduce a new outdoor dining proposal that will help the restaurant industry regain its footing by making it easier and more affordable for restaurants and small businesses to do business outdoors.
“The restaurant industry needs our help more than ever,” Faulconer said. “This plan makes it easier and less expensive for restaurants to transform parking lots and outdoor spaces into dining areas that can accommodate more customers safely. This is one more way we are delivering relief to small businesses as they reopen their doors and people get back to work.”
Under Faulconer’s proposal, the City will waive fees and fast-track permitting to help restaurants increase customer capacity and get back on their feet. Securing an outdoor dining and retail permit can exceed $1,000 and can take several months to process. This new proposal helps hundreds of businesses by waiving fees and reduces processing times from weeks to several days.
With the spread of the coronavirus still looming, health officials have advised reducing capacity by maintaining at least six feet between tables. The proposal allows restaurants and retail businesses to maximize outdoor space, including parking lots and on-street parking spaces, to make up for lost revenue resulting from reduced indoor capacity.
All eating and drinking establishments, including restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries and wineries are eligible. Retail establishments including furniture, appliances, pet supplies, apparel, and other convenience sales are eligible.
The proposal reduces applicant costs for special events by waiving processing fees for applicants to operate in the public rights-of-way until social distancing mandates expire. It waives certain permit requirements and streamlines the review process to allow applicants to close streets and conduct business outdoors faster.
“Since early May, the Little Italy Association has worked closely with Mayor Faulconer's staff, Assemblyman Gloria's office and City Councilman Chris Ward to reopen the community by creating a balance between safely opening up our neighborhood businesses, bringing people back to work and ensuring that the visitors and customers that would practice social distancing,” said Little Italy Association Chief Executive Administrator Marco LiMandri.
“The COVID virus is still with us, but that doesn't mean our world stops. Working with the City leaders, we believe that the Little Italy Association can, through its Saturday evening Al Fresco program, create a model of outdoor dining and strolling on India Street that allows for the managed approach to creating a safe, dynamic and prosperous neighborhood again.”
The permit will:
Allow businesses to expand operations on to a street, sidewalk or parking spaces near the storefront for sit-down dining or customer pick-up and carry-out service;
Place outdoor seating on private property, such as on a sidewalk or private parking lot;
Waive special event application fees, late fees, and fire inspection fees for street closures;
Waive parking requirements, so businesses can make use of private parking lots to place dining furniture and displays, among other retail operations;
Broaden allowances for temporary signs so that outlets can place menus, directional signage and other informational signs outdoors; and
Preserve mobility, safety and emergency access;
Preserve requirements that ADA access be maintained at all times.
The City has launched an online portal to provide technical assistance, expedite the permit process and allow qualified businesses to submit permit applications early. Retail and restaurant businesses are encouraged to submit proposals now so applicants can move forward as soon as the City Council approves the plan the first week of July.
“As the principle voice and advocate for the continued prosperity of Downtown, we could not be more excited to see these Curbside San Diego locations go live,” said Marshall Anderson, vice president of government affairs for the Downtown San Diego Partnership. “Like each of Downtown’s neighborhoods, these locations are unique. What unites them is the extra helping hand they will provide to Downtown businesses still trying to get back on their feet and, of course, the creativity to reimagine sidewalks, streets and parking as safe, physically-distanced public spaces that will benefit our community. We can’t wait to see these – and other locations still to come throughout Downtown – serve as a testing ground for this new take on public spaces that the City of San Diego has embraced.”
The restaurant and hospitality industry has suffered substantial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. San Diego county has more than 8,000 eating establishments and employs nearly 129,000 people. Nearly 57,000 restaurant jobs were lost as of April, according to the State of California.
“COVID-19 closures have divested businesses. The City will help by allowing them to operate closer to the sunshine giving employees space to work safely and customers more space to eat, drink and shop,” said Development Services Department Director Elyse W. Lowe. “Literally and figuratively, this summer, we want to shine San Diego’s bright sunlight on an industry overcast with dark clouds most of the year.”
Businesses will be able to use the temporary outdoor space as long as the County public health order requires social distancing. Permits for complete street closures will expire when social distancing requirements are lifted or at the end of the year, whichever comes first. For more information or to submit a permit application click here.