City phases out temporary outdoor dining two months after end of indoor capacity limits

Jo and Larry Wertz enjoy a lunch at the outdoor dining area of Old Town Junction in Newhall Monday afternoon. November 23, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Santa Clarita businesses and restaurants had until last Monday to take down the temporary outdoor spaces they built in response to COVID-19 restrictions that limited their indoor capacity during the first 15 months of the pandemic. 

Temporary-use permits issued by the city of Santa Clarita allowing the outdoor operations on sidewalks and in parking lots expired on June 15 in conjunction with the state’s decision to remove COVID-19 restrictions on indoor capacity. 

The city issued 63 permits free of charge to restaurants as part of its “Eat Local” program and 24 permits to non-restaurant businesses as part of its “Shop Local” program. 

Jason Crawford, the city’s manager of planning and economic development, said the city worked with restaurants to determine a reasonable timeline to return the sidewalks and parking spaces to their pre-pandemic state. 

“Having just been on Main Street where city staff are setting up for (Thursday night’s) Senses event, I saw that all of the tented expansions on to Main Street were removed,” Crawford said via email. 

He said he’s not aware of any business that did not comply with the city’s order to remove their temporary outdoor spaces. 

“Many of the restaurants that expanded via Eat Local also have permanent outdoor eating on patios,” Crawford’s email said. “These can be seen at restaurants across the city on Main Street, at Westfield and at retail centers in Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall and Valencia.” 

Restaurants that received temporary-use permits have not made requests to permanently add or expand patios, Crawford noted. 

Ben Law, who co-owns Brewery Draconum, had created a temporary outdoor dining space in front of the Main Street location. 

He said he took down his temporary outdoor dining space three weeks ago, leaving Brewery Draconum with indoor seating and a permanent outdoor dining area in the back. 

“We literally just sold all the K Rail that we bought,” he told The Signal. “We had to get rid of it. We had nowhere to put it. You know, it’s bulky…so we sold it.” 

About two months ago, when Law and other restaurant owners heard of the June 15 expiration date, Law attempted to organize restaurants against ending the temporary outdoor dining spaces. 

“The city said, ‘We’re going to do it,’” he said of the city’s decision to allow the permits to expire. “And none of the restaurants complained.” 

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