Santa Barbara Restaurants Gain Sidewalk Space

City Opens ‘Pedestrian Promenade’ on State Street to Allow More Table Space for Social Distancing

A 40-foot city bus parked across the intersection of Sola and State streets marks the new pedestrian promenade that opens today down to Haley Street. | Credit: Jean Yamamura

A 40-foot city bus is parked across the intersection of Sola and State streets to mark the upper point of the city’s main drag that will close to create a pedestrian promenade. The long-desired closure allows the city to open the sidewalks — down to Haley Street — to restaurant service. Jason Harris, the City of Santa Barbara’s new economic development manager, said a decision last night made the 500 to 1300 blocks into a “pedestrian promenade, as it were, so that the public would feel comfortable with social distancing spacing.” The 400 block may be included soon. 

A number of State Street restaurants have already placed tables outdoors in readiness for lunchtime traffic, though the closure of the city’s main thoroughfare will take place officially at 4 p.m. today, and the pedestrian promenade will be open daily 7 a.m-10 p.m. Some restaurateurs are still combing through the paperwork that will allow them to open; others are reading them carefully so they can open safely.

One popular white-tablecloth restaurant that’s open for pickup orders hoped to seat diners in a day or two, describing the to-go order business as unsustainable. It may be a day or two before they know how to transform the busy bustle of service to indoor-outdoor seatings that work and keep waitstaff and customers safe, said Christina Shea, who manages Jane Restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara.

Harris said an emergency economic recovery ordinance would be before the City Council next Wednesday that would allow outdoor dining on private property. A webpage would illustrate the design guidelines for using parklets — or onsite parking spots — sidewalks, private property, city parking, and so on. The alcohol service, however, is not currently permitted outdoors. Harris said the city was working to organize applications to the California Alcohol Beverage Control department to save time, as well as a webinar with ABC officials on the application process.

To give an idea of the pace Harris has set, at 12:20 p.m., he set a meeting for an hour later for restaurants to weigh in on setting up on the sidewalk or State Street itself.

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