Restaurant owners pleased with permanent sidewalk dining ordinance
Speaker 1: (00:00)
According to a San Diego city council member. It's one of the silver linings of the COVID pandemic outdoor restaurant dining extended onto sidewalks and parking areas was given permanent approval by the city council last week. The emergency measure meant to help restaurant serve patrons outdoors during the height of the pandemic as proven so popular. It's now a city initiative, dubbed spaces to places the move towards permanent outdoor dining is also supported by Steve Glasso owner of cafe Italia and precedent of the little Italy association. I certainly believe that
Speaker 2: (00:37)
And Alfresco dying as we like to call it here. And little literally it's the future of dining and not only San Diego, but I think throughout the nation and as a small business owner in San Diego, I'm encouraged by the mayors and the city council's decision to create a program. I think it's certainly going in the right direction here.
Speaker 1: (00:52)
New regulations for the structures and new fees were part of the city council's approval. Joining me is Mako Lee mantry. He is chief executive administrator of the little Italy association and Marco, welcome to the program. Thanks Maureen. Now, looking back over the past year, how important has the opening up of outdoor dining areas been for little Italy?
Speaker 3: (01:14)
It's been critical. I'm I'm happy to say that little Italy did not lose one restaurant or bar or coffee shop during COVID, which we believe is a tremendous achievement it without the outdoor dining, because I think as you recall, just about a year ago on Thanksgiving, everything's shut down completely. And when things began to open up an outdoor dining was allowed 25% indoor was allowed. That's when the restaurants were given the approval to build within the parking spaces and the building of all those structures in parking spaces, along India and Ketner Columbia and other spaces kept these restaurants alive. So we didn't lose anybody. And they were critical to the survival of the restaurant industry in little Italy,
Speaker 1: (02:00)
Uh, along with allowing the outdoor dining areas to become permanent. The city council has also imposed a number of regulations and fees. For instance, roofs have to be removed from any outdoor dining area. No tents are allowed. Do you agree with these new rules?
Speaker 3: (02:18)
Is that the temporary building structures, which were allowed last February expired in July because they have only a six month life. They're really written for things like surface pants and pop-up pants and things like that. But they were applied to the outdoor structures. When we tried to clarify, why were we going to have to take down these roofs lower to forty-five inches? You know, you couldn't run wires from the restaurants anymore. We were told that it was a state building code. Our fear Maureen was that San Diego might implement this according to the regulations, but other cities would not. So what we have now is you cannot have rooftops in San Diego, but you can in San Francisco, they're building them in Oakland, as we speak, you can do them in LA. So it's each fire. Marshall's interpretation. The state building codes that is created this issue about no rooftops. And it's extremely frustrating.
Speaker 1: (03:13)
Oh, you do have some argument with these actual regulations about the structures of the dining. Parklets how about the new city fees for outdoor dining? They could cost restaurants several thousand dollars. Will that be feasible for most restaurants
Speaker 3: (03:27)
Go to India street and you see the restaurant spend a hell of a lot more than a couple of thousand dollars for some of these structures were baffled by the fact that certain things were changed and other things were not
Speaker 1: (03:38)
Outside of the roofs. I may ask you, what do you think in general about the fact that these outdoor dining structures have been approved permanently by the city county?
Speaker 3: (03:49)
It's great. We think that the spaces in places is great and we support the city. I don't think that the costs and the annual rental rate will be an ominous burden to a lot of the restaurants. Of course we would like a lot of that way, but we understand that there is a process for, uh, monitoring and improvement. And we think the restaurants actually will take advantage of that. All of them down India street and throughout little, little bit
Speaker 1: (04:13)
Now outdoor restaurant dining structures. They usually eliminate parking spaces is losing that parking revenue, a problem.
Speaker 3: (04:20)
We generate quite a bit of parking revenue. And I think that if we added up the spaces, we're not talking more than like 30 spaces or so. And then you just do the math. There are plenty of other spaces in low and laid that can accommodate that. The real issue is, has the lack of parking impacted people's availability to come and visit little Italy and parking lot, literally, et cetera. And if you come to little Italy on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, you'd say, no, it has not. People figure it out. They either walk the Uber, they lift the parking, the county parking structure, they trolley, they take scooters, whatever, but it has not impacted us negatively.
Speaker 1: (04:54)
How do you think that this works into this street dining works into your idea of creating plazas for people to walk shop for making little Italy and a lot of other dining areas around the city, more pedestrian friendly, more walkable.
Speaker 3: (05:11)
I think Maureen, as you know, we probably have more public spaces in little Italy in the 48 square blocks and any other community in the county of San Diego. You know, there's a great quote that says cars have never bought anything, but people do. So what we want to make sure is that we're able to accommodate the customers, the visitors, the residents, the people that work here all throughout Italy. And I think that we've really demonstrated that you have walkability and still thrive.
Speaker 1: (05:39)
How difficult is it going to be for restaurants to dismantle the kinds of things that the city council wants them to dismantle like roofs and take down tents and things like that? Is that going to be prohibited for some people,
Speaker 3: (05:50)
You know, we've got a great group. We have a hospitality task force ever since July, that they've known that this was coming and we continue to update them on a monthly basis. So this is not surprising to a lot of people, would they prefer to keep the roofs, of course, but they realize that they can keep the platforms. They can keep the outdoor dining, we can replace it with umbrellas. They can have battery operated Peters and lighting within their area. So I think that the key thing is the platforms and the ability to have additional space because as you know, people can serve a hundred percent endorse now and outdoors, and that extra space has really made the difference for survival. We've heard from many restaurants that their business in October, 2021 was better than October, 2019, which tells us this outdoor dining has really made the difference.
Speaker 3: (06:40)
So that's a positive thing. You know, I'm a native San Diego. We have about 340 days a year that we can go outside. And in light of the fact that COVID had such a tremendous impact worldwide, people want to eat outdoors, they would prefer to be outdoors. Cause the virus doesn't thrive as much outdoors. So we believe that this is part of an overall long-term change in the city of San Diego, where we should be doing this everywhere. We should be vacating streets everywhere. We should be providing outdoor dining outdoor sitting and enjoyment of this incredible micro climate that we have. So this is a really good step in the right direction.
Speaker 1: (07:19)
I've been speaking with mark [inaudible]. He is chief executive administrator of the little Italy association, Marco. Thank you very
Speaker 3: (07:26)
Much. Thanks a lot, Maureen. Anytime.
According to a San Diego City Council member, it’s one of the “silver linings” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outdoor restaurant dining extended onto sidewalks and parking areas was given tentative permanent approval by the City Council last week.
"I think al fresco is the way of the future, not just in San Diego but across the nation," said Steve Galasso, the owner of Caffe Italia on India Street in Little Italy. "I think it's certainly going in the right direction."
Little Italy has some of the highest number of outdoor dining structures in the city.
The emergency measure, meant to help restaurants serve patrons outdoors during the height of the pandemic, has proven so popular it’s now a city initiative dubbed Spaces to Places.
New regulations for the structures and new fees were part of the city council’s approval.
Marco Li Mandri, the chief executive administrator of the Little Italy Association, is pleased with the outdoor dining initiative.
"This is part of an overall change in the city of San Diego where we should be doing this everywhere," Li Mandri said. "We should be vacating streets everywhere, we should be providing outdoor dining, so this is a really good step in the right direction."
Li Mandri joined Midday Edition on Wednesday to talk about the newly approved measure.