PISMO BEACH, Calif. -- Numerous Central Coast cities have recently extended permit use for outdoor dining, or are currently planning to do so.
After more than a year in during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the state of emergency approvals that granted the use of outdoor dining are now expiring.
Last week, during the Pismo Beach City Council meeting, the city extended outdoor dining use in approved parklets through Oct. 31.
"We are super excited," said Derek Davis, Splash Cafe Operations and Restaurant Division Manager. "We're very grateful and super happy that we're going to be able to have the capacity to serve all of the customers and the ones who still aren't comfortable with the inside dining."
Several restaurant owners recently told NewsChannel 3-12 they were concerned parklet approval would end July 31, right in the middle of the all-important travel season.
"It's great to have access to the outside and it really expands our service," said Davis. "We're really expecting a busy summer and it's nice to actually have more seating than we normally would have."
In nearby Grover Beach, the city has extended the use of outdoor spaces on private parking lots and public sidewalks through June 2022.
“We remain committed to supporting our local businesses in not just surviving COVID-19, but adapting and thriving into the future,” Grover Beach Mayor Jeff Lee said in a release. “Our community is very supportive of our Grover Beach businesses, and through our initiatives like creative use of outdoor areas along with the small business microgrants and the Buy Local program, the City will continue to show this support to help create a stronger and more vibrant economy.”
Paso Robles has extended parklet use through Oct. 31, while in Solvang, approval runs through Nov. 30.
In San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande, city councils in both locations will address the issue at a future meeting.
Jocelyn Brennan, South County Chambers of Commerce President/CEO is hoping outdoor dining and parklet program will continue on for an extended period of time.
"The outdoor dining for the businesses has been a game changer," said Brennan. "It allowed them to continue to operate if they were either completely closed or limited capacity indoors, so every table that they're able to add is more revenue for them, so it was really helpful to the restaurant industry."
The Chamber recently conducted an online survey specifically addressing outdoor dining. Participants included both business owners and customers.
"The feedback was really good," said Brennan. "Most of them want to keep their outdoor dining space and they want to be able to make it permanent and their customers want them to keep it as well."
The survey determined more than 80 percent of the respondents are in favor of keeping outdoor dining open in existing parking spaces.
In addition, nearly 86 percent of the respondents answered they are in favor of keeping sidewalk dining open with four feet of ADA clearance.
The survey also found there is still a large percentage of people who remain uneasy about eating inside.
"30 percent of the people that we surveyed said that they still aren't comfortable eating indoors even though it's allowed," said Brennan.
Looking ahead, many are hoping outdoor dining and parklets will remain in place for a long period of time.
"We would love work with the city and continue to move forward and come up with maybe a more permanent outside dining situation," said Davis. "We know a lot of restaurants would really enjoy that."
Visitors to Pismo Beach also said they are keeping their fingers crossed outdoor dining will continue.
"I love it," said Adam Prough of Chico. "Indoor, outdoor, but I actually love eating outside, sooner or later this whole thing is going to end and I hope outdoor dining continues. I do because it's wonderful."
Prough was visiting Pismo Beach with his wife Rebecca and their three children on Monday. They both agreed it was a wonderful way to eat lunch at Splash Cafe.
"I love dining outside," said Rebecca Prough. "I love the fresh air. I love hanging out with my kids outside and just being with people again is fun. Keep it going. This is great. People want a chance to get out and have some fun and not be stuck inside. I think it's great for everyone."