Mayor says expanded outdoor dining should be here to stay

Business

SAN DIEGO – What does the future of outdoor dining in San Diego look like in a post-pandemic world? Will those expanded outdoor patios get to stay?

The outdoor space is not just a luxury, it’s been a necessity for most restaurants to stay afloat during the pandemic. San Diego and other cities in the region have given the businesses more flexibility to expand their outside, speeding up the permitting process for patios and allowing them to move beyond the traditional bounds of their properties in some cases.

But with the state on target to fully reopen most businesses on June 15, many want to know if those outdoor patios can stay — or if they have to go.

“I think they should continue,” said Byron Wilson, a customer at a restaurant Thursday in the Gaslamp Quarter. “I think it’s the new wave.”

“On a weekend night, we’re jampacked,” said Andrea Daoust, manager of Water Grill, about the added outdoor space.

The City of San Diego says it’s prepared to continue accommodating at least some of the larger outdoor spaces.

“I think it’s very positive,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “San Diegans have been very clear, they like outdoor dining. It’s been a necessity under the pandemic. I think it’s something we’ll need to maintain far beyond that. We live in one of the best climates on earth, why wouldn’t we take advantage of this?”

Gloria said he’ll work to allow the spaces to continue, but has not yet provided policy specifics. FOX 5 has reached out to the mayors of Chula Vista and Escondido, which have featured similar programs, to ask about their plans once indoor dining is fully reopened, but had not heard back as of Thursday evening.

Critics note there are some drawbacks to a continuation, however. For example, many of the patios block sidewalks and bike paths, and others extend into traffic, taking up a full lane.

If they stay, restaurants will become much bigger than they’ve ever been. Daoust says there’s one problem with that: There’s not enough servers for the tables they are already using.

“We call 70 people in for interviews, and seven show up,” she said. “So, we really need crew members because we want to succeed, give good service, we just need the crew to be in here.”

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