By Dave Schwab
The dos and don’ts of outdoor dining were discussed at a how-to webinar sponsored by Downtown San Diego Partnership and City officials on July 9.
Nonprofit DSDP, with nearly 400 broad-based members, is a leading advocate for economic vitality and growth downtown. Included in that mix is the Gaslamp Quarter, one of the first communities to successfully switch to outdoor dining following recent COVID-caused indoor restaurant closures.
“Small-businesses are facing an uphill battle navigating with the rapid pace of changes created by COVID,” said Betsy Brennan, president/CEO of DSDP. “Experts in this webinar will go over what businesses can do to expedite the mayor’s recent executive order allowing outdoor dining, and what steps are involved in the process for creating their own outdoor dining experience.”
“All of your ups and downs are being taken very seriously, and we’re bringing forward opportunities for you to operate your businesses outdoors in San Diego’s sunny weather,” said Elise Lowe, director of the City’s Development Services Department.
Lowe proceeded to walk webinar participants through what is required, and how to apply, for permitting to operate outdoor restaurant dining. A fact sheetcan be found online at TemporaryOutdoorPermit@sandiego.gov.
Lowe noted the mayor’s executive order allowing City outdoor cafes requires them to clear four feet of sidewalk space as an ADA travel pathway. “We want to create an immediate opportunity for dining on sidewalks as well as in parking lots,” she said. “I know many of you are anxious – and perhaps even angry – that you are not immediately extended into parking space in front of your business. But the reason behind that is very important: to make sure, when you put patrons in the parking lane very close to the path of vehicular traffic, that you do a safety review and put up the type of (physical) barriers required to do that.”
Lowe added the city is streamlining the outdoor dining permitting process, while allowing temporary signage to advertise businesses being open.
Lowe said businesses applying for outdoor dining permitting need to provide a layout plan to qualify for an encroachment permit to use sidewalks. “You need to make sure there is a clear path of travel on sidewalks, and that you have written permission from adjacent businesses to have a sidewalk cafe,” she said. “You also have to make sure your tables are socially distanced by six feet. It’s also important that your cafe space is not blocking utilities, building entrances, crosswalks or bus stops.”
Lowe added sidewalk permitting also requires protective concrete barriers and ropes to clearly separate sidewalk dining areas from moving vehicular and pedestrian traffic. She said it’s also required that sidewalk cafes not obstruct traffic views around corners.
Natasha Collura of the City’s Special Events & Filming Department noted action taken to streamline outdoor dining requests has “a lot of moving parts.” She pointed out circumstances requiring new permitting protocols “had to be done very quickly.”
“Anything we can do to help businesses, we are looking at that,” Collura said adding business requests for street closures will be reviewed “case-by-case based on public safety.”