ESCONDIDO – The City of Escondido implemented its outdoor dining expansion last Friday, just three days after San Diego County officials ordered the shutdown of indoor operations for a number of businesses including restaurants and bars.
In an effort to keep businesses open amid the new countywide restrictions, Escondido is allowing restaurants to temporarily expand outdoor seating.
In collaboration with the Downtown Business Association (DBA), the city has reduced the travel lanes on Grand Avenue between Maple Street and Juniper Street to allow restaurants to create temporary outdoor dining locations.
Traffic will be temporarily limited to one travel lane in each direction with the other lane serving as parking.
“People are always worried about a parking problem down here, so one thing I wanted to do was make sure we didn’t give up any parking and create extra space for the businesses that needed that extra space,” said Dan Forster, vice president at the DBA. “Hopefully that one lane of traffic will slow people down a little bit and allow them to look around and notice what this place has to offer.”
The move is part of the city’s Business Recovery Strategy, which went into effect back in May and implements temporary regulatory and non-regulatory measures such as permit extensions, off-site sale and delivery of alcohol and temporary signage relief to assist local businesses.
Amber Tarrac, the city’s deputy director of economic development, told The Coast News that, because the county ordered the rollbacks for three weeks, that’s what they are planning for, but if the order does get extended, the city might consider prolonging the outdoor expansion.
“We decided—both the business operators and the city—to be flexible and to just try it and see how it goes,” Tarrac said. “We are all trying to figure out what the best happy medium is. We’re taking it on a case by case basis, but overall there’s been a lot of support for this.”
The DBA has committed $10,000 for shade coverings, tables, and chairs to support the effort and are also reimbursing businesses the $100 Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) permit fee to allow them to serve alcohol outside.
“Something like this has never really been done before,” Forster said. “We have several events every year, and that’s how we bring in money, but we’re always looking at ways to make it better for the merchants down here, how to get more feet on the street, how to create more visibility and things like that. We just really want to see the area prosper, that’s why we got involved.”
The city hopes to implement similar strategies citywide, and with more restrictions announced by California Governor Newsom on Monday, Tarrac told The Coast News that they’re hoping more Escondido businesses will apply for assistance.