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La Mesa extends outdoor dining

The La Mesa City Council decided Tuesday to extend the use of outdoor space for retail and commercial businesses for a full year at the recommendation of city staff.

Assistant City Manager Carlo Tomaino said the recommendation was made to help local businesses recover from economic effects of the pandemic.

“This was done in response to a letter we received from the La Mesa Village Association but also in recognition of the fact that our businesses have been significantly impacted for the past 15 months, due to the pandemic,” Tomaino said.

“We want the city to know that the decision to allow the temporary sidewalk cafe for our restaurants has helped them to stabilize their business operation during times of economic and emotional distress and uncertainty… According to the California Department of Public Health letter dated May 21, 2021, we are on track to end the restrictions on June 15, 2021, which looks to mean that the temporary outdoor dining will be disallowed,” read the letter penned on behalf of the La Mesa Village Association on June 4.

“We surveyed the restaurants in the village, and those that have expanded their outside dining would like it to be permanently extended,” the letter said.

City Council member Colin Parent asked if staff had considered a long term plan “to allow for these sorts of things to operate on a more permanent basis after the emergency ends” and although City Manager Greg Humora said staff had not yet considered developing a more permanent plan, he advised that staff could do so with an amendment to the item from city council.

Mayor Mark Arapostathis suggested the amendment for staff to come up with permanent options, and city council unanimously voted for the one-year extension while also asking staff to assemble some options for a more permanent plan.

During public comments, resident Diane Osterling said “the rapid increase in the new COVID variant is expected to be the dominant virus in the United States within two to three weeks” and she believed the decision to extend outdoor dining was a wise choice for public health.

However, the majority of the comments came from locals who believe allowing the restaurants to continue gleaning outdoor space for at least the next year might be what keeps them in business.

After the meeting, La Mesa Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary England said she is concerned people have forgotten that restaurants were closed over the winter holidays and suffered significant lost revenue that cannot be quickly recuperated.

“If you’re not in the business, you likely don’t remember last November when businesses had closed, opened,  then closed again right when many had booked holiday events and they lost all that revenue. Now they have indoor seating as well as outdoor seating so they have a bit more capacity to serve more customers and recoup some loss,” England said.

A side benefit of outdoor dining, she said, is that neighboring shops will also benefit economically.

“I’m looking at Lake Murray and places you don’t walk to, in shopping centers. While people are waiting for their table, they shop the stores nearby and then even when they’re full, maybe they stop at the yogurt shop and pick up something to take home to the freezer for later on. That one restaurant can generate business for all the nearby stores,” England said.

La Mesa extends outdoor dining

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Source: East County Californian

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