Restaurants in the Gaslamp on Fifth Avenue set up dining in the street.
Restaurants in the Gaslamp on Fifth Avenue set up dining in the street. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego County began notifying restaurants Thursday of $4.5 million in permit fee refunds, the result of a recent settlement in a lawsuit brought by a local restaurant group.

The refunds cover the period of March 16, 2020 through June 15 of this year.

The class action settlement benefits all restaurants and limited food preparation facilities that paid or were required to pay annual permit fees to the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health and Quality.

It provides a 50% refund of annual permit fees to restaurants that paid, and 50% credit to those that owe the fees.

The settlement also waives late fees for untimely payment of permit fees that were due through that time period, as long as the fees are paid within 12 months of the original due date or by Dec. 31, 2021 whichever is sooner.

The amount is in addition to $118.9 million already provided to restaurants by the County Board of Supervisors to help offset the impact of California’s stay-at-home and local public health orders due to the pandemic.

“Restaurant owners and their employees suffered significant losses because of COVID-19,” said Nathan Fletcher, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “As the industry rebuilds, this refund will aid restaurants in their economic recovery and is in addition to the tens of millions of dollars provided to them during the height of the pandemic.”

To date, the county has provided $123.4 million specifically to help restaurants, including:

  • $12 million from county fee-related actions supporting restaurants including deferrals and waivers;
  • $90.2 million to fund a pandemic program in which restaurants delivered meals to participating seniors from May 2020 through July 2021, and
  • $16.72 million to restaurants and limited food preparation facilities through the Small Business Stimulus Grant program.