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Pismo Beach continues parklet program, other cities looking at future of outdoor dining

Pismo Beach outdoor dining
Diners wait to order at Cool Cat Cafe in their outdoor parklet on Pomeroy Ave. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

PISMO BEACH, Calif. -- Pismo Beach leaders recently approved an extension to its parklet program, deciding to allow restaurants to continue offering outdoor dining in public areas for several more months.

The temporary extension for parklets will run through Sept. 20, 2022.

"We were really excited about that," said Splash Cafe owner Joanne Currie. "It's been really helpful for both my staff and for the community and tourists to be able to have the opportunity and the option to have people sit outside."

Mayor Ed Waage agreed, noting how important outside dining has been to the city throughout the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's been very popular," said Waage. "I think without parklets we could not have survived the pandemic. It was very important to get people outdoors where they felt comfortable and they were safe."

The move comes as several other Central Coast cities are looking at future plans for their own parklet programs.

In Paso Robles, the city has ended its program, which like all other locations, allowed outdoor dining soon after the pandemic started in spring 2020.

However, in other places, like San Luis Obispo, city leaders are considering making its outdoor dining policy, which it as dubbed Open SLO, a permanent program.

Arroyo Grande leaders are studying the issue and could also extend parklets to a permanent status. It will likley discuss the matter sometime in March or April.

In Grover Beach, the city no longer has any restaurants utilizing parklets, but has made outdoor dining in other spaces a permanent option with permitting.

In Pismo Beach, Waage said the city will also consider making parklets into a permanent program, but will encounter regulatory hurdles to do so.

"If we go to a permanent parklet program, we'll have to go through the Coastal Commission and make sure they're going to buy into what we're going to do because we're going to lose parking," said Waage. "When you lose parking, you have to accomodate that loss of parking."

Since most of the city is within the California Coastal Commission jurisdiction, the city would have to gain approval from the state agency.

Waage mentioned the city will take up the issue later in the year closer to when the temporary extension ends at the end of September.

Should the city extend the parklet program beyond September, or move it to a permanent basis, Currie is on board.

"I think it would be great. Pismo is such a great beach community and customers really like sitting outside," said Currie. "It has the beach vibe, classic California. We always have such beautiful weather and it really give that beachiness."

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Dave Alley

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