San Diego waives permits for sidewalk cafes, dining in parking lots

Gaslamp Street Closure
Chuck Lee (left) and Sofia Arias (right) enjoy street side seating outside Barleymash restaurant on 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter on June 18, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Faulconer move aims to help restaurants replace space lost to Monday’s prohibition against indoor dining


Aiming to help restaurants in the wake of Monday’s state order forcing them to cease allowing indoor dining, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is issuing an executive order waiving permits for dining on sidewalks and in parking lots.

Faulconer’s move will allow many restaurants to increase the amount of space where they can host diners, which may offset the lost dining areas they face as a result of new state and county orders prohibiting indoor dining.

The prohibition, which will last at least three weeks, was prompted by the local increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Public health officials say many of the new cases can be traced to indoor dining.

The executive order applies to sidewalks adjacent to restaurants and to eateries with private parking lots they want to use for outdoor dining during the pandemic.

Restaurant owners will immediately be allowed to place tables and chairs on sidewalks and in parking lots. But they won’t be able build any structures or place anything permanent in the public right of way.

“Outdoor dining has given local San Diego restaurants the opportunity to return under a new normal that allows for proper physical distancing and enforcement of face coverings when possible outdoors,” Faulconer said. “We’re streamlining the process for local businesses to operate and making it easier to survive the current climate as we combat the rise of COVID-19 cases in San Diego.”

The prohibition against indoor dining, which is a county health order prompted by the state, is expected to affect more than 4,000 restaurants who employ more than 55,000 people.

Faulconer characterized the move as a “stopgap” measure in anticipation of the City Council approving an ordinance more formally waiving those permit requirements. The council is tentatively expected to consider that new law July 14.

The ordinance will go beyond waiving public right of way permits for sidewalks and parking lots. It will decrease building permit fees and streamline the process for awarding such permits.

Securing an outdoor dining and retail permit can exceed $1,000 and can take several months to process, Faulconer said. The proposal aims to reduce processing times to several days.

The ordinance would also streamline the process for encroachment and removal agreements, which are sometimes required for sidewalk and parking lot dining.

Sidewalk cafes will still need to adhere to all federal, state and local laws related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control.