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San Diego County Cities Looking for Ways to Keep Outside Dining Options – NBC 7 San Diego

The temporary outdoor patio at your favorite restaurant isn’t two years old yet but it feels like it’s been there forever. Several cities are looking at making “forever” a reality.

“The past two years have been a test of adaptability,” said Monica Szepesy, founder of Q’ero on The 101 in Encinitas.

She adapted to survive financially by building a patio in two parking spaces outside her restaurant.

“We love this [patio] because we’ve heard such positive feedback from guests that come and use it,” said Szepesy. ‘They love being able to sit outside, enjoy the lovely weather.”

Szepesy hoped she and her fellow restaurant owners in Encinitas could keep their patios beyond their permits. Szepesy said hers lasts through next year. Wednesday evening, the Encinitas City Council directed city staff to look into ways to make outdoor dining permanent, whether it’s on the sidewalk or in parking spaces.

“I’m on the fence,” admitted Encinitas resident Karen Dearana while eating on the Encinitas Café’s patio.

She said she loves the sun and the people watching, but she missed the additional parking.

“It has been a bit challenging at times,” said Dearana.

“There’s never been enough parking. There never will be enough parking,” scoffed Szepesy.

For most cities in San Diego County, the outdoor dining areas born during the pandemic won’t last forever as they stand now.

A spokesman for the city of San Diego said each temporary outdoor area will go away July 13 unless the restaurant owners successfully get a new permit for an area that’s been inspected and approved by the city.

In the City of Chula Vista, existing temporary outdoor dining areas can remain through July 31, 2023, according to a spokesperson. The city will work with those businesses next year on extending those dates.

Encinitas City Hall was closed Friday and a spokesperson couldn’t give NBC 7 details about what programs city staff will investigate.

Szepesy said she’d like to keep her patio, especially because no one knows the future of COVID-19.

“This happened once. It could happen again,” she said. “If it’s safer for everybody, we definitely like it.”