Some Santa Clarita restaurants can now expand their outdoor service with the city’s Eat Local program, which hopes to encourage more residents to dine locally.
This comes after monthslong closures due to the coronavirus, which forced restaurants only to offer takeout or delivery.
Now, restaurants in commercial centers can expand outdoor seating onto private sidewalks and private parking spaces through the city’s program, which provides safety and flexibility for both the restaurant and its customers, while indoor occupancy is limited.
“This is another way the city is looking to help our local restaurants recover from the losses they have suffered during the shutdown,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said in a prepared statement. “The Eat Local Program is both an innovative and business-friendly solution to ease residents into feeling comfortable eating out again and helping restaurants welcome back more customers, while indoor dining is still at limited capacity.”
California Alcoholic Beverage Control officials also recently updated their regulatory relief notices on alcohol sale and consumption, giving businesses the opportunity to apply for permits that would allow them to serve alcoholic beverages and food outdoors, while the county Board of Supervisors approved a motion during Tuesday’s meeting to allow the appropriate departments to develop countywide guidelines and create a streamlined permit process and request system.
“We want it to be an area in control of the licensee, where they have … a good line of sight and can see what’s going on to make sure that the basic laws are being followed,” ABC spokesman John Carr said in a previous Signal interview. “But we realized that they need to be able to spread people out, which is the whole concept behind doing this.”
After submitting a site plan to the city’s planning team and presenting their proposal, qualified restaurants would be granted temporary use permits at no cost.
During the approval process, city staff members are expected to review site plans, write conditions regarding public safety, receiving clearances from other agencies and ensuring noise and loitering are limited.
Restaurants participating in the program must continue to follow the county’s public health guidelines and are responsible for working with the L.A. County Fire Department and Department of Public Health, along with the ABC, as necessary to receive any other required permits.
Through the pandemic, 24/7 Events, a Santa Clarita-based event rental company, has been doing its homework, trying to figure out how to assist local businesses.
“We wanted to make sure that we were one of the first to jump in and assist where we can because we know that we’re not here just for us, we’re here for our community, and that’s a big part of our company,” said Stacie House, director of business development at 24/7 Events.
Immediately, the company set out, working with local health care providers, including Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, to provide specialized tents able to be used as isolation areas, sick bays, drive-thru testing sites or waiting areas.
“Not much of that really materialized in California because it never got bad enough, but we were ready to go with the solution, and we could have turned Central Park into a hospital,” added owner Rob Cruikshank.
Since then, they’ve been expanding that to include other local businesses, including the restaurant industry.
“We’re taking a look at trying to come up with a lot of different options for businesses who have to get creative with how they’re going to offer their services, and dining was a huge part of that,” House added.
Using models in other states and counties, 24/7 has been drawing up plans and speaking with local restaurants, ready to start when the county lifted restrictions.
“Luckily, now with the partnership from the city, county and ABC that we’re seeing, there really are a lot of options for restaurants to expand, (even) collaboratively with other restaurants in their area,” House said.
Along with tables and chairs, 24/7 can provide businesses with tents or ClearSpan Structures, which can be customized to fit most spaces, include doors, hard walls, glass walls and patios with covering, and can be lighted and climate controlled.
While each restaurant has its own unique set of circumstances, House says 24/7 is prepared to come up with creative solutions that follow health guidelines and keep both staff and guests safe within a convenient, functional space.
In following guidelines, each structure also undergoes sterilization, while the company is looking to offer sanitary heating, ventilation and air conditioning that disinfect while in use.
“We definitely want to take some of that onus off of the restaurant, so we try to make it as easy and streamlined as possible,” House said, adding that 24/7 works directly with the city and county, leaving only ABC permitting for the restaurant to coordinate.
Restaurants that are unsure of their options are welcome to contact 24/7, Cruikshank said.