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SAN DIEGO – From the South Bay to North County, cities across San Diego County have allowed restaurants to create unique outdoor space for dining during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a pleasure to be outside and we have invested in a great number of heaters to make the guest experience very enjoyable,” restaurant owner Yanni Pihas said.

On Tuesday, San Diego City Council unanimously approved an ordinance extension to allow restaurants and businesses to continue operating outdoors through next year.

The approval extends the expiration date for all permitted outdoor operations through July 13, 2022.

Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors, said the county already extended its ordinances through the end of the year, but he’d hoped county leaders could find a solution to make outdoor fixtures permanent.

“A lot of folks, both businesses and consumers, have come to appreciate the expanded outdoor options,” Fletcher said.

While dining at Yanni’s Bar and Grill in Scripps Ranch, patron Judy Gagnon said she supports the expansion.

“We live in San Diego, ya know,” Gagnon said. “If we lived in New York, it would be a different story. But we have the most perfect weather for outdoor dining so why not?”

Customers like Gagnon have enjoyed the ordinances, but restaurants ultimately have depended on them amid pandemic restrictions limiting indoor capacity for more than a year.

“We take one day at a time to see what’s happening and thank God the community support us and they’re here every day,” Pihas said.

By allowing dining areas like the one at Yanni’s to stay in place, city leaders hope restaurants can make up money lost over the last year or longer. Pihas said over the last two weeks, his restaurant has been the busiest it’s every been.

But issues remain in filling out the restaurant’s staff to meet increased demand.

“The biggest challenge our business faces right now — and I’m very fortunate to say I have fared very well — is to find team members,” he said.