By Caleb Lunetta
Senior Signal Editor
When COVID restrictions forced restaurants to rotate, many made the outdoor food court – whether on a sidewalk or part of a newly walled parking lot – part of their new normal.
As vaccine distribution increases daily and the city of Santa Clarita seeks to revert to pre-pandemic rules, it will be interesting to see how the dining experience adjusts as restaurants return to their usual space.
Local restaurateurs noted that many preferred the change of atmosphere, and although some were able to expand their space thanks to the new regulations, everyone is no doubt looking forward to a day when such dining choices can be completely. optional.
In June, the state of California announced that restaurants would be allowed to return to 100% of their indoor capacity. And while restaurants have reportedly been pleased with the development, after spending the past year at a fraction of their staff and seats, Jason Crawford, economic development manager for the City of Santa Clarita, said the city and the restaurants wanted a transition period for restaurants that would need to demolish their temporary outdoor dining experience.
After August 17, about two months after the state cleared the new capacity rules, tables in parking spaces, tents blocking traffic, and all other temporary devices allowed in recent months due to COVID and the need for social distancing must be lifted.
“After the expiration of August 16, you will still be able to sit on the patio of one of the restaurants, for example, Main Street, but you just won’t be able to go out and sit in a parking space,” he said. Crawford said. “During COVID, we allowed restaurants to expand even further into sidewalks and parking lots. And that was on a temporary basis when they couldn’t be fully occupied indoors.”
“We spoke to some of our restaurants and suggested a two-month transition rather than just ending it abruptly,” Crawford added, saying about 100 local restaurants have been granted the free permit to extend their meals in the open. air. “The restaurants have had a very difficult time over the past year and a half, so it was important for us to work with them. “
But just because the expansion of outdoor dining will be reduced slightly, Crawford said the city continues to support outdoor dining. From Main Street to downtown Valencia, Stevenson Ranch to Canyon Country, from family experiences to intimate experiences, Crawford said a number of local establishments have permanent outdoor dining facilities that will be available even after. that the tents were taken down this past week.
Why dine outdoors?
Of course, the weather plays a role, an official said.
“I think larger groups are more interested,” said Ryan Wilkonn, manager of Rattler’s BBQ, when he explained why he thinks people like the al fresco dining option so much. “It gives you more space for yourself and depending on the weather people will appreciate it when it’s 75-80 degrees.”
Rattler’s barbecue had a COVID-19 front patio that could seat around 35 people and when COVID hit they were allowed to expand that outdoor capacity, they doubled that number.
“They’re in no real rush,” Wilkonn said when asked why anyone would choose, when it’s an option, to choose to eat outside rather than inside. “People who sit outside take their time to enjoy their meal. “
Caroline Law, co-owner of Draconum Brewery, said the outdoor dining experience at Draconum, from its original design, has been designed in such a way that the beer garden makes you feel like you are in. Europe or somewhere that looks like a tavern.
“Even back to the original design and concept, we wanted picnic tables because that also opens up an additional social experience; it allows people to have bigger parties that allow a whole group to get together and spend time or just a family.
“People who want to hang themselves, they know all the games are out,” Law added.
What is a part of the outdoor dining experience?
“We find that customers want to be able to connect for a dining experience in a safe but comfortable space,” said Jeffrey Compton, general manager of Lazy Dog restaurant in Valencia. “Our guests really appreciate our spacious outdoor terrace with comfortable tables which are shaded by umbrellas during the day and warmed with additional heaters at night.
“Our relaxed atmosphere and dog-friendly terraces also make the setting very accessible and make our customers want to come back,” he added.
Law agreed with Compton that the experience of an outdoor meal is different from an indoor meal because the activities that are part of the experience differ from place to place. ‘other.
“It allows the bocci ball, it allows the cornhole, the Giant Jenga,” Law said. “There is a lot of entertainment value. “
And for those with kids, eating outdoors can be fun for people of all ages, and there’s something for everyone, experts said.
“They come in and know this is where they can come and sit and really just enjoy the craft beer and great pub style food,” Law said. “So I think that’s what (the outdoor diners) have come to know, love and expect… it’s that kind of unique feeling” It’s your backyard, but not your backyard -court “.”
In the wake of COVID-19, and the lessons learned as well as the positive feedback they’ve received from first-time al fresco diners, Rattler’s, for example, is considering changing its previous style, despite the changes it made. to laws.
“We’re thinking of doing a bigger part of it, because a lot of the outside tables that we didn’t have before have worked really well, people seemed to really like that,” Wilkonn said. “So we keep five of the tables that we put there. “