CALIFORNIA—Restaurants in Berkeley are trying to pass a bill that would allow for open-air dining on some of their sidewalks and streets.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Vice Mayor Sophie Hahn were the first to introduce the bill, which would allow restaurants and other independent businesses to use outdoor spaces to provide service to their customers.
The idea was originally inspired by news coverage in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. Last month, Vilnius announced that it would turn public plazas, streets and squares into a “vast open-air cafe” to allow restaurants to continue business outside. It sparked a similar idea in Berkeley, and has begun to gain support. Berkeley’s proposal is meant to further help small businesses that have been impacted by the loss of revenue due to the pandemic.
“I’m just thinking about some of our restaurants which have small dining areas. Under the guidance from the state they are gonna have to probably eliminate half of their tables and chairs, and that is income to their restaurants. That’s income that they need to make payroll, to be able to pay their rent,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a recorded interview with KPIX.
City council members will vote to pass or reject the proposal on June 2. If passed, the draft version of the legislation states that the city of Berkeley would need to identify locations where tables and chairs would be placed so customers can safely dine. Consultations with Berkeley’s Public Health Officer would need to take place as well, and the current permits and fees in place for businesses and restaurants would be waived if they comply with health guidelines.
“This proposal will enable us to reopen an important part of our economy while minimizing the risk of new infections,” Mayor Arreguín explained in a statement about the plan.