The future of outdoor dining will be the hot item on the city of San Diego’s menu Tuesday.
Temporary outdoor permits that gave so many restaurants and businesses a lifeline amid the pinch of the pandemic are set to expire, so local leaders considering extending the permits for another year.
“I think it’s good idea,” downtown resident Elizabeth Herrera said. “I think the city should leave it like this. It looks European.”
The city could extend the permits all the way into July 2022.
“For sure it is going to help a lot,” Anthony Altala, owner of Asti Ristorante, said. “Right now, on the weekend we’re able to put 30 more tables outside.”
Altala has run Asti Ristorante on Fifth Avenue for 27 years. Hollywood royalty has dined here, but these days the best seat in the house is outside.
“We’d love to have it forever if we can,” he said.
With the heat of the pandemic simmering down, some think it’s time for businesses to chop their outdoor spaces. Antonio Loverso, who owned the restaurant next door to Altala’s, said he misses the parking spaces.
Laverso also thinks outdoor dining lacks the intimacy of the special occasion experience he tries to create inside his restaurant, but just like mollusks, better open than closed.
“Whatever it takes for everyone to be safe and healthy,” Loverso said. “Do whatever that needs to be.”
Other proponents say closing Fifth Avenue on the weekends draws more two-foot traffic instead of four wheels.
“Walking and being outside more than driving is better for a city and people’s health over all,” visitor Josh Boshers said.
The city council’s proposed extension would only apply to businesses using a valid city permit to operate outside.
A city spokesperson said that while it’s not a part of permit extension process, city inspectors intend to crack down on unpermitted structures and businesses in violation.
The city of San Diego Planning Department is looking into ways to make the outdoor experience permanent, and is anticipating bringing forward a solution this fall.
At the county level, Supervisor Jim Desmond said he would bring up the issue at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.