temporary permits expire for outdoor restaurants

SAN DIEGO — Time is running out for the City of San Diego’s emergency ordinance to allow outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The city worked really well with us to grant this temporary permit and it was a lifesaver – for many of us down here it was fantastic to have it,” said Daniel Dryne, owner of The Field Irish Pub in the Gas Lamp Quarter.

Hundreds of restaurants and bars have offered outdoor dining through the city’s temporary outdoor business permits. However, those permits expire next month.

If companies want to continue their outdoor opportunities, they must now apply for a new so-called Spaces As Places permit, which will entail more regulation and safety requirements.

“There are requirements to limit the size of the decks so that emergency operations can take place. No overhead structures are allowed, no electrical wiring is allowed on pavements, either on slopes or in the sky, and we expect solar lighting to be used,” said Chris Larson, program coordinator. “We need plans to be submitted to the city where we will have our engineers review those plans. We issue permits and then we have the inspectors inspect the work when it’s done.”

Larson says the new permits only apply to food and beverage outlets. Of the 500 companies with a temporary permit, only about 20 have applied for the Spaces As Places permit so far.

The application deadline is July 13.

Dryne says he got into his application right away, having already spent thousands of dollars on its structure and adjustments.

“I think it will make a big difference. It’s going to be a permanent base, so everybody abide by the city rules, you know, anybody can do that and I think it’s going to be very beneficial for everybody here. I think the customers will love it,” said Dryne.

Peter Morales, who runs Operacaffe, says he fears the city will ask him for a smaller and less sturdy patio.

“I want to do the right thing, but I want to watch out for customer safety. I think that’s more important than a construction that’s just a fence and some water barricades. I don’t think that will be safe for people,” Morales said.

City officials say all companies that apply before the deadline can continue to operate under the temporary permit until the new one can be processed.