The Pima County Board of Supervisors adopted a set of temporary regulations to help restaurant owners expand their outside dining area while under new indoor occupancy restrictions during Wednesday's emergency meeting.
The county's new temporary regulations allow restaurants in the unincorporated areas "to use outdoor spaces for additional customer service, including the use of portions of parking lots, sidewalks, and vacant lots," according to the county's press release
Supervisors made the concession after limiting indoor dining capacity to 50 percent as a part of the temporary addition of 15 new regulations to the county health code during the pandemic. The health code's new changes will be removed once the county’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco García declares the pandemic over.
"With the additional seating options, many restaurants should be able to reclaim much of the capacity lost as a result of physical distancing regulations that limit in-door seating to 50 percent capacity," according to the release.
Temporary shade, vacant indoor areas, and tent structures are also good to go by the county after owners submit a simple layout plan to Pima County Development Services to make sure the areas are cleared for dining service. The county is planning on providing same-day review and evaluation of temporary outdoor expansion requests in an attempt to help restaurants reach full capacity -or as close as possible - as quickly as possible.
Ward 6 Councilmember Steve Kozachik is also planning on proposing something similar to the county's plan during next Tuesday's city council meeting. Kozachik said his plan would be site-specific because "not all restaurants have space outside to allow for it."
Here are the county's new regulations on outdoor dining:
SECTION 2. The Pima County Board of Supervisors adopts the following temporary modifications to zoning requirements applicable to restaurants or other dine-in establishments to provide more usable seating area to maximize physical distancing:
A. Limits and Restrictions: Specific limits are not recommended on seating area expansions to allow maximum flexibility to accommodate a wide variety of business sizes, locations and types. This would apply to restaurants in shopping centers, retail strips, stand-alone structures and multi-use buildings. Potential expansion areas could include vacant land, vacant building space, common areas, sidewalks, parking lots, etc. More importantly, restaurants have flexibility to work with the landlord/building owner to identify the best locations to establish expanded seating areas.
B. Adjacency of Seating Areas: The expanded seating area does not have to be immediately adjacent to the existing restaurant footprint. It may be desirable to establish a seating area on the shady side of a storefront or other area such as a parking lot away from the main structure. It is noted there may be certain state liquor license requirements, which Pima County and other jurisdictions do not have control over, that need to be adhered to and may affect the location of the expanded seating.
C. Cafe Seating on Sidewalks and Common Areas: Seating outdoors near an entrance or patio to a restaurant is currently permitted in commercial zones. Cafe seating is fairly common at restaurants throughout the County such as North Italia, Blanco Taco and others at La Encantãda, but is potentially underutilized especially during hotter months. Promenades and sidewalk areas have minimal criteria that must be maintained when expanding into these areas, such as providing 6 feet of distance for safe ingress/egress and no obstruction of American with Disabilities compliance requirements. A minimum distance of 8 feet, or 5 feet if there are wheel stops, must be maintained from the seating area to the parking lot curb.
D. Use of Parking Lot: Most shopping centers in unincorporated Pima County, and likely other jurisdictions, are substantially over-parked and have promenades that could be utilized to expand seating to offset table loss from indoor seating limits and to maximize distances between patrons. However, expanded seating areas should not block parking spaces designated for individuals with disabilities or emergency services access lanes. Wherever parking or loading spaces are used for expanded seating, adherence to the following criteria is recommended; Barriers with a minimum height and weight similar to curbs or wheel stops shall be provided on the Parking Area Access Lanes (PAAL) and along the sides of seating areas where adjacent parking spaces will remain in use; A 5-foot clear zone shall exist between the parking area barriers and the expanded seating area. Tables and equipment must not be located in this five-foot clear zone.
E. On Street Parking Spaces: These locations could be easily converted to outdoor seating areas or "parklet" type seating areas. These locations, typically found in mixed-use, urban and downtown settings, could be used as seating area extensions. If located within a public street, approval of the jurisdiction's Transportation Department would be required.
F. Temporary Shade and Tent Structures: If a tent structure is utilized, and is less than 900 square feet and open on two or more sides, no permit is necessary in unincorporated Pima County, if a tent structure over 900 square feet is erected, a building permit is required with a Fire Department inspection.
G. Other Permits: If construction or erecting of a structure is proposed that involves electrical, grading/drainage, plumbing or other non-minor improvements, a staff evaluation will determine what other permits may be needed in consultation with the restaurant owner/operator. Most "pop-up" style cafe and outdoor seating will not trigger any permits.
H. Other Agencies' Requirements: Expansions must adhere to applicable requirements of other agencies such as the Pima County Food Code and pandemic-related reopening measures and the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control regulations.
I. Signaqe: Enforcement of temporary sign requirements and prohibitions have previously been suspended in unincorporated Pima County, and many other jurisdictions, to allow the use of temporary signage to inform customers during the pandemic emergency declaration.
J. Landlord/Property Owner Consent: With landlord or property owner consent, and subject to adherence to these outlined measures, restaurants may establish expanded seating areas in locations authorized by the landlord or property owner such as courtyards, promenades, sidewalks, parking lots, loading bays, etc.
K. Review Process: For unincorporated areas, Pima County Development Services Department will provide same day review and evaluation for proposed temporary outdoor expansion. A simple floor/plan, landlord/owner consent letter, and vehicle barrier diagram (when located in parking lot) can be submitted by email to DSDPIanning@pima.gov for review.