By Christopher Gomez
The Little Italy Association (LIA) launched their “Ciao Bella!” reopening campaign this past month which included three nights of Al Fresco dining. The streets of Little Italy were transformed into open-air dining allowing 23 different restaurants to move tables onto sidewalks and streets. India Street from W. Beech to W. Grape Streets and including W. Date and W. Fir Street between Kettner Boulevard and Columbia Street were closed to vehicular traffic to allow people to wine and dine in the open air.
Many businesses in Little Italy have had to either adjust seating capacities or shut their doors completely over the last few months. However, this open-air dining experience allows for over 20 different restaurants to take steps in recovering from the loss of sales over the last few months by increasing seating capacities from about 50% to roughly 95%.
Little Italy and other Downtown communities have led the charge in implementing open-air dining throughout San Diego County. Mayor Kevin Faulconer held a press conference in Little Italy following the first weekend of Al Fresco dining, recognizing the success and opportunity the initiative gave to local businesses. Mayor Faulconer also encouraged other communities in San Diego to do the same and announced the city would be waiving all permit fees to help — saving organizations thousands of dollars.
During Al Fresco, signs were posted on every block as a reminder to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing protocols among other county health directives. Following guest feedback from the first Al Fresco night, changes were made ahead of the second night including installing hand sanitizer stations and handing out face masks to those without them. Little Italy is facing the reality that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon and is adapting in order to keep everyone as safe and comfortable as possible.
Due the success of these first three nights, Little Italy has announced they will be continuing their Al Fresco dining every Saturday night through the end of July.
It has taken 25 years for Little Italy to become what it is today and that is a mark of our community’s resilience and love for its local businesses and residents. We thank you for your continued support and believing in our famiglia. As we navigate this “new normal,” we are fortunate to have the opportunity for Al Fresco dining and look forward to seeing you in Little Italy soon.
— To learn more about our latest reopening plans, visit www.CiaoBellaSD.com. For Little Italy COVID-19 resources and updates, visit www.LittleItalySDUpdates.com or follow us on Instagram @LittleItalySD, Twitter @LittleItalySD and Facebook @LittleItalySD.