Outdoor Dining Parklets No Longer Cheap and Easy

Cities in Santa Cruz County, California are making outdoor dining laws permanent, and some businesses are getting sticker shock at the extra cost of maintaining the pandemic-era expansion of al fresco dining.

1 minute read

November 21, 2022, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The former parking of Woodies restaurant is filled with empty picnic tables for dining during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Outdoor dining on former parking spots on the Municipal Wharf in Santa Cruz in 2021. | paulaah293 / Shutterstock

Jurisdictions in Santa Cruz County are in the process of overhauling the temporary, emergency outdoor dining rules put in place during the pandemic, according to an article by Thomas Sawano for Lookout Santa Cruz, with the purpose of making parklets permanently safe and economically feasible.

According to a Lookout estimate, 81 Santa Cruz County businesses are operating parklets for outdoor dining spaces in former street parking spaces—not even counting the “large number of businesses with dining spaces in their private parking lots.”

Some cities in the county, however, are busy crafting new regulations for the parklets, adding costs and uncertainty about the ability of businesses to continue operating the spaces. Sawano provides more detail:

Capitola’s city council passed a permanent outdoor dining ordinance in December 2021 that limited the number of parking spaces businesses could use for dining space to 25 and introduced new design requirements and guidelines for semi-permanent street dining setups. In Santa Cruz, an ordinance establishing a permanent parklet program passed its first reading before its city council on Oct. 25. It is slated for final review Tuesday.

The changes will cost “big bucks” in some cases, according to sources cited by Sawano in the article below.

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