The State Street promenade has transformed what was once a retail ghost town into a bustling atmosphere dotted with diners enjoying meals in the street and bicyclists and strollers darting to and fro, despite the pandemic. But what about the many restaurants on the side streets? They could not compete with all these al fresco dining opportunities. After a dynamic effort by restaurant owners, however, to persuade Santa Barbara city officials, outdoor dining is now available along West Victoria Street just off State.
“Outdoor seating is a lifeline,” said Marge Cafarelli, owner of the Santa Barbara Public Market at 38 West Victoria St. “As long as we can continue this, businesses still have a chance at surviving the pandemic.”
The 00 block between Chapala and State streets has the second-highest concentration of food and retail establishments in one single downtown block — 13 in total. Over 325 people work in these restaurants. Cafarelli said all of the businesses on the block, including those housed inside of the Public Market, were suffering as a result of the new outdoor-only dining regulations.
“State Street actually hurt us because people want to sit outside and we weren’t able to offer that,” Cafarelli said. “It is so important that people can feel safe, and now we can offer that. It’s only been expanded into the street since Thursday, and people started filling tables immediately.”
Before the pandemic restrictions, the Public Market had over 350 indoor seats and 40 seats on its patio. With the additional parklet street seating now, the Market is able to seat 105 people including the patio. Neighboring restaurants along Victoria are building out parklets this week, too.
Other downtown blocks are also looking to expand into the street. Since the State promenade ended at the 500 block, restaurants between Haley and Gutierrez streets demanded the city give them the okay to build parklets. They were helped by City Councilmember Oscar Guitierrez, whose district includes that block. He put heat on city administrators to expand the promenade and they did. Now the 500 block restaurants have parklets, too.
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