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Sidewalk cafes may catch a break

San Diego City Councilmembers Todd Gloria, Lorie Zapf and Kevin Faulconer joined forces with the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association at the OB Noodle House Thursday to aid in the creation of sidewalk cafes.

The association, which represents an industry with 3,300 restaurants and projected gross sales of $2.9 billion, has long argued that costly regulations and unnecessary red tape with regard to curbside tables have been greatly hindered in their ability to make a decent profit margin.

“Under the current city code, restaurant owners face a lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable permitting process,” Zapf said in a release. “One regulation brought forward to the city’s Land Use & Housing Committee last year included costly regulations to sidewalk patios.”

The proposal that is heading to the Planning Commission and ultimately the Land Use & Housing Committee committee would create a new "sidewalk cafe" option, keeping a single row of tables within 4 feet, 6 inches of the building while allowing a clear path of travel on the sidewalk without a barrier in between.

“For smaller restaurants which simply want to add a few tables outside, like the OB Noodle House, fees that are upwards of $10,000 before construction costs, are an impossible ask by the city,” said Zapf, who also is the Land Use & Housing Committee chair. “The proposal coming before my committee would significantly reduce the costs and time associated with adding a small sidewalk cafe, allowing neighborhood restaurants to add a few more tables to accommodate more business.”

Easing restrictions on sidewalk cafes is just one of the reforms the City Council has pursued recently to assist local restaurants. Last year, the council approved the elimination of entertainment permit fees for “bona-fide” restaurants that close before 11 p.m.

The Planning Committee will be looking at the proposed changes in February. The Land Use & Housing Committee will be making recommendations on sidewalk cafes at the March meeting.

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