Local restaurants petition to bring back outdoor dining

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO — The Little Italy Association, which oversees hundreds of San Diego restaurants, has delivered a petition signed by more than a thousand businesses to the County Board of Supervisors, asking them to put pressure Gov. Gavin Newsom to once again open up outdoor dining.

“They haven’t shut down Christmas tree lots, they haven’t shut down Costco, they haven’t shut down malls,” said Marco Li Mandri, CEA of the organization. “But they shut down restaurants.” 

The state’s new stay-at-home order, which has again shut down large portions of the economy as California tries to get a grip on rising coronavirus case rates and shrinking hospital ICU capacities, has dealt another blow to restaurants like Civico by the Park and Civico 1845, a family-owned business.

“It’s been the most challenging year for sure, for all of us, especially to re-adapt month after month after month,” said Dario Gallo, who said he signed the petition immediately because the restaurants have done everything in their power to keep their customers safe — and at considerable cost. “We were really happy because we were able to finally make some money.

“This latest news was so bad for us, because delivery really doesn’t allow you to have too many people working. We had to lay off again — everybody — it was so hard. We invested so much money in order to distance the tables to create an outdoor space, especially in Little Italy, that we didn’t have.” 

Now he’s forced to do the deliveries himself and his brother is in the kitchen. This year they will see no profit, but he says they will stay open for their customers.

State health officials say in-person dining options are closed to help minimize the amount of mingling people do together for extended periods of time, especially when removing masks to eat a meal.

But restaurant owners like Gallo believe their services are no less essential — or safe — than some of those that are allowed to remain open: “I think … it’s important to give people just a little extra of going out to a restaurant and not thinking about problems and work and this pandemic. I think of restaurants as really important (to) psychologically give relief to all of our guests when they come.”

Meanwhile, the pandemic worsens in San Diego County, with the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care units increasing. Officials reported 2,807 new COVID-19 infections — the second highest daily total — and 23 deaths Wednesday.

A jump of 39 hospitalizations and five newly-admitted ICU patients has officials concerned. With 301 COVID-19-positive patients in area ICUs Wednesday, that number passed the total patients without the virus — 282 — for the first time in the pandemic.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said — in talking to hospital CEOs — doctors are postponing serious medical treatments such as tumor removal and organ transplant to free up ICU beds for COVID-19 patients. The number of hospitalizations also set a record Wednesday, with 1,171 patients with coronavirus in regional hospitals.

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