The Coast News Group
The City of Encinitas has suspended temporary encroachment permits which allowed businesses to operate in public rights-of-ways. Photo by Dustin Jones
CitiesCommunityEncinitasEncinitas FeaturedNews

Encinitas suspends temporary outdoor dining permits

ENCINITAS — The City of Encinitas has suspended all temporary encroachment permits for outdoor dining areas in compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order.

As coronavirus cases continue to climb across Southern California, the governor’s order will remain in place until the availability of intensive care unit beds improves in area hospitals.

The city has issued 20 temporary encroachment permits to local businesses since last June, allowing businesses to utilize public rights-of-way for outdoor dining purposes. But Newsom’s order prohibits indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, limiting businesses to takeout or pick-up orders only.

The order went into effect over a month ago, but some businesses have elected to stay open. As a result, the city has temporarily suspended the permits to be in compliance with the state, Mayor Catherine Blakespear told The Coast News.

“This is the thing that is under the city’s control,” Blakespear said. “We’re not revoking or suspending the permit entirely, but they need to make a good faith effort to not operate in that space.”

Pat Piatt, a spokesperson for the city, said every business that was issued an encroachment permit has complied with the city’s decision. Since then, outdoor dining areas along Coast Highway 101 have been packed up and roped off.

David Arato, owner of Gelato 101, said Encinitas is much quieter than it was just a few weeks ago. Around Christmas, many restaurants continued to allow customers to dine in.

“Restaurants (in Encinitas) were packed between Christmas and New Year’s,” Arato said. “Carlsbad was the same, Oceanside was even worse. It wasn’t just Encinitas that was open.”

Last week, the city of Carlsbad held a special meeting to discuss enhanced enforcement of restaurants and businesses in “willful violation” of state and county health mandates. However, the Carlsbad City Council declined to adopt additional measures in favor of a more comprehensive approach.

As for Encinitas, city officials started cracking down on businesses violating public health directives on city property, threatening to revoke city-issued encroachment permits.

Local businesses are now forced to navigate a nearly impossible situation — balancing business with compliance — and hoping to make it through the pandemic in one piece.

As for Arato, he doesn’t have an encroachment permit from the city and admits that selling ice cream is less complicated than full-service restaurants.

Arato said he doesn’t blame other business owners for doing what they must to survive. At the same time, he understands the city can’t sit idly by.

“I understand the city has to say something,” Arato said. “There is nothing you can do in this situation that will make everybody happy.”