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By Miriam Raftery

June 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – Owners of reopened restaurant are struggling to generate profits while complying with social distancing requirements of six feet between tables due to COVID-19. Now the El Cajon City Council has unanimously voted to make it easier for eateries to expand outdoors.

The Council approved a second reading on June 23 of an emergency ordinance passed unanimously June 9. It allows restaurants to skip cumbersome conditional-use permit requirements for sidewalk dining. The new ordinance will remain in effect through the end of this year, but an extension or option to make it permanent may be considered later on.

Previously, a conditional use permit, or CUP, required extra fees and delays due to an environmental review, followed by approval of both the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Although CUP requirements are waived, restaurants still need to obtain an encroachment permit, which allows the restaurant to expand into the public’s right-of-way on sidewalks, streets, parkways, driveways or easements. Each establishment would have to comply with health requirements and be approved by the city manager or his designee.

Restaurants will also have to provide insurance, avoid damaging sidewalks, limit hours to when restaurants are open and serve alcohol only with food.  Music is limited to background music only at low levels.

Sidewalks must be cleared of all encroachments whenever a special event is held, such as the city’s annual Mother Goose Parade. 

While El Cajon’s changes are a big step toward helping local restaurant owners survive the COVID-19 limits on indoor dining, some local communities have gone even further.

The City of San Diego has approved shutting down streets to vehicles for a portion of the weekends in the Gaslamp and Little Italy areas, allowing restaurants to set up tables in the streets.

View El cajon’s outdoor eating and drinking guidelines:


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