Proposal for more outdoor dining

Proposal for more outdoor dining

(June 18) Continuing to deliver relief to San Diegans impacted by COVID-19, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer was joined by Little Italy Association and Downtown San Diego Partnership representatives to introduce a new outdoor dining proposal that will help the restaurant industry regain its footing by making it easier and more affordable for restaurants and small businesses to do business outdoors.

“The restaurant industry needs our help more than ever,” Faulconer said. “This plan makes it easier and less expensive for restaurants to transform parking lots and outdoor spaces into dining areas that can accommodate more customers safely. This is one more way we are delivering relief to small businesses as they reopen their doors and people get back to work.”

Under Faulconer’s proposal, the City will waive fees and fast-track permitting to help restaurants increase customer capacity and get back on their feet. Normally, securing an outdoor dining and retail permit can exceed $1,000 and can take several months to process. This new proposal helps hundreds of businesses by waiving fees and reduces processing times from weeks to several days.

With the spread of the coronavirus still looming, health officials have advised reducing capacity by maintaining at least six feet between tables. The proposal allows restaurants and retail businesses to maximize outdoor space, including parking lots and on-street parking spaces, to make up for lost revenue resulting from reduced indoor capacity.

All eating and drinking establishments, including restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries and wineries are eligible. Retail establishments including furniture, appliances, pet supplies, apparel and other convenience sales are eligible. 

The proposal reduces applicant costs for special events by waiving processing fees for applicants to operate in the public rights-of-way until social distancing mandates expire. It waives certain permit requirements and streamlines the review process to allow applicants to close streets and conduct business outdoors faster.

The permit will:

  • Allow businesses to expand operations on to a street, sidewalk or parking spaces near the storefront for sit-down dining or customer pick-up and carry-out service;
  • Place outdoor seating on private property, such as on a sidewalk or private parking lot;
  • Waive special event application fees, late fees and fire inspection fees for street closures;
  • Waive parking requirements, so businesses can make use of private parking lots to place dining furniture and displays, among other retail operations;
  • Broaden allowances for temporary signs so that outlets can place menus, directional signage and other informational signs outdoors; and
  • Preserve mobility, safety and emergency access;
  • Preserve requirements that ADA access be maintained at all times. 

The City has launched an online portal ( to provide technical assistance, expedite the permit process and allow qualified businesses to submit permit applications early. Retail and restaurant businesses are encouraged to submit proposals now so applicants can move forward as soon as the City Council approves the plan the first week of July.

The restaurant and hospitality industry has suffered substantial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. San Diego county has more than 8,000 eating establishments and employs nearly 129,000 people. Nearly 57,000 restaurant jobs were lost as of April, according to the State of California.

“COVID-19 closures have devested businesses. The City will help by allowing them to operate closer to the sunshine giving employees space to work safely and customers more space to eat, drink and shop,” said Development Services Department Director Elyse W. Lowe. “Literally and figuratively, this summer, we want to shine San Diego’s bright sunlight on an industry overcast with dark clouds most of the year.”

Businesses will be able to use the temporary outdoor space as long as the County public health order requires social distancing. Permits for complete street closures will expire when social distancing requirements are lifted or at the end of the year, whichever comes first.

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