Relatives enjoy patio dining at En Fuego Cantina in Del Mar. Photo by Chris Stone

With indoor dining prohibited at San Diego County restaurants in response to a spike in local COVID-19 cases, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an emergency executive order Tuesday waiving permits and other regulatory requirements, allowing restaurants to expand their services onto outdoor spaces like sidewalks and private parking lots.

Indoor dining will be closed for at least the next three weeks after the county remained on the state’s monitoring list for three consecutive days, leading all indoor operations to be halted at a variety of businesses, including restaurants, where county health officials say many of the recent outbreaks occurred.

Faulconer said his executive order — which goes into effect immediately — gives restaurants the ability to create sidewalk cafes without a permit and use their parking lots for outdoor dining. Enforcement of municipal codes that would typically prohibit such operations will be suspended.

“This is important to preserve people’s jobs and to preserve public safety,” Faulconer said.

Faulconer said securing the necessary permitting to expand outdoors in this way can take months and costs businesses more than $1,000 in typical times.

The San Diego City Council is expected to consider a proposed ordinance next week that will expand on Faulconer’s order. If approved, the ordinance will reduce permit fees, waive and streamline permit reviews, allow for outdoor dining plazas and outdoor operations in on-street parking areas, Faulconer said.

In a statement announcing the executive order, Faulconer said, “Given that the state’s new shutdown order has an immediate impact on local businesses, this action will provide relief while the city is finalizing a new ordinance for council approval that will cut fees and streamline permits to make it easier for businesses to operate outdoors.”

— City News Service

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