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Santa Barbara County relaxes business rules, allows more outdoor seating in unincorporated areas

Dave's Dogs parklet
Ryan Fish/KEYT
Dave's Dogs on Turnpike Road in unincorporated SB County has built a new parklet outside the business, allowing for more tables.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara County approved a new rule last week allowing restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county to expand outdoor seating onto sidewalks and parklets built in parking lots.

Similar measures already took place in the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta, where several businesses have taken advantage and extended their seating areas.

The move also applies to other businesses such as bars, community centers, churches and retail shops.

Santa Barbara County Planning and Development says the move is to help businesses create more spacing for customers to safely eat on-site once again.

The rule is in effect immediately through Dec. 16 of this year or when the County COVID-19 emergency ends, whichever is earlier.

“The county has always been interested in trying to make it as easy as possible for businesses and community organizations to reopen,” said Tess Harris, Supervising Planner with County Planning & Development.

“Relaxing certain zoning standards and requirements, we think, will help businesses and organizations out by really making sure that they can operate safely and effectively and still maintain customers, but have them in outdoor areas and areas that are going to be safer.”

The rule also states that while businesses can now implement these changes, they must submit materials including a checklist, photos, revised site plan and description of any temporary changes to the county within 30 days.

Businesses making changes can learn more and submit information to the county here.

Some businesses have already taken advantage. Dave's Dogs on Turnpike Road near Santa Barbara has built a new parklet complete with hanging lights next to the restaurant, adding four outdoor tables for customers.

Popular Isla Vista burrito spot Freebirds reopened last week and quickly added sidewalk seating in addition to its outdoor patio.

Down the street, Rockfire Grill already boasts a large patio seating area but now has also expanded seating onto its parking lot.

“Because we have this big parking lot, we were able to accommodate to everyone,” General Manager Rishi Syal said. “Now, it’s honestly normal… A lot of people don’t even wanna go inside. They just wanna be outside with the weather, with the sun. So being able to use the patio and use the parking lot, it’s been great.”

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