Few people are taking advantage of Capitola’s outdoor dining program put in place to buoy restaurants during the pandemic.
According to a report by the city of Capitola, the 11 restaurants in the small Santa Cruz County tourist hub that participate in the outdoor dining program saw about 66 diners choose to sit outside over a four-day survey period. City staff, according to the report presented to Capitola City Council Wednesday, monitored customer traffic in the afternoon and evenings.
Weekends saw the largest number of customers enjoy their meals outdoors.
This report aims to give the city a better idea of just how necessary outdoor dining is for local restaurants. Based on the low numbers of outdoor diners, city staff recommends ending the temporary outdoor dining ordinance in January. A permanent outdoor dining program is in the works, with the city hoping to get it up and running by summer of 2022.
But City Councilman Jacques Bertrand raised concerns over outdoor dining programs taking up valuable parking space. With parking in high demand, seeing empty dining tables in parking spots is frustrating for residents and visitors, Bertrand said.
“People come and see unused parking spaces, and I think that sets the wrong image for Capitola,” Bertrand said.
Some restaurant owners and Capitola residents urged the council to keep the emergency ordinance in place past January 2022. They say applying for new permits, and adhering to new outdoor dining requirements will be costly and time-consuming.
“Now is not the time to increase operating costs of businesses. The service industry was one of the hardest hit industries in the pandemic. Outdoor dining is key to recovery,” wrote Doug and Ann Marie Conrad, owners of Capitola Wine Bar.
Capitola Mayor Yvette Brooks directed city staff to survey the restaurant owners who are part of the emergency outdoor dining program ahead of the city’s Nov. 23 meeting. It’s at that meeting that council members will decide whether to offer another extension for the emergency outdoor dining program and hear recommendations for the timeline and requirements for the permanent program.