Outdoor dining proposed to help local restaurants survive

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ENCINITAS, Calif. — There’s a robust dialogue on North County social media sites like Nextdoor.com about how to help local restaurants survive during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some restaurants are scraping by with take-out service, but others remain shuttered. One idea that is getting a lot of interest is “dining al fresco.”

Leaders in Encinitas says they are considering many ideas, including outdoor dining, but now proposals have been officially discussed by the City Council.  

For restaurants struggling to hang on, the move from in-person dining to take-out service has been a struggle.

“Within the first three weeks, we went from a full-service dining room with waitresses to just to-go through a window,” said Kris Buchanan with Goodonya, and organic restaurant in Encinitas.”We lost over $100,000 in the first month and we will never get that money back.”

Like a lot of restaurants that were forced to shut their doors overnight, Goodonya was hard hit by the loss of business, but Buchanan said the restaurant has been lucky. They quickly adjusted. They already had a healthy online clientele and walk up customers.  She wants to reopen table service, but the idea of closing down the street for outside dining may be a stretch.

“Based on what I’ve seen in Encinitas, people are definitely out and about. Very few are wearing masks — even people coming up to our window.  So I think it might get a little out of control to be honest,” Buchanan said. “But we would participate we’re up for anything.”

At this point it’s just an idea. Whether it’s dining on the street or sidewalk and how that might look is anyone’s guess.

“When they opened Moonlight Beach, it was like madness,” Buchanan said.  “It was like Fourth of July, and nobody had masks on. So I just hope if we do it, everybody will follow the rules.”

In order insure the survival of her business, Goodonya has a strict COVID-19 safety policy. Buchanan said she has fired employees who didn’t take it seriously.

“Its unrealistic, the guidelines that I am seeing. You know our cooks are shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen sometimes and ask them to have a mask on in a hot kitchen for eight hours a day — it’s really hard! The whole point of dining is to go in and enjoy the atmosphere, and if you have plexiglass in between everybody, that just seems a little overkill,” Buchanan said.

The Encinitas City Council will listen to ideas, including al fresco dining, on Wednesday at their next meeting,

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