City of Clovis Allows Restaurants To Extend Outside Dining Into Public Spaces

Old Town Cafe is located 4th and Pollasky in Old Town Clovis. (Photo courtesy of Ron Sundquist)

In an effort to help businesses like restaurants reopen and comply with social distancing guidelines, the Clovis City Council voted to approve an emergency order that would allow restaurants to extend their footprint into public spaces like sidewalks or parking lots.

“One of the mitigating requirements for restaurants is to increase social distancing in those facilities and reducing their table counts significantly. Depending on the footprint of a restaurant this could make it so it is not financially feasible for them to continue operations,” Andy Haussler the Clovis Economic Development Director said.

Restaurants being able to expand their footprint is a crucial part of being able to meet health official’s guidelines for reopening. It gives restaurants and businesses the ability to accommodate social distancing requirements without being hamstrung by limited indoor space.

“We have been looking for creative ways to assist them and one of those is to allow them to expand their footprints beyond their current footprint, such as having a patio in an adjacent public or private space or into a parking area or sidewalk,” Haussler described to the City Council.

The California Department of Public Health in mid-May issued guidance for dine-in restaurants. The 12-page document includes sections on everything from employee training and sanitizing procedures to guidance on social distancing.

Restaurants should, “prioritize outdoor seating and curbside pickup to minimize cross flow of customers in enclosed environments. Restaurants can expand their outdoor seating, and alcohol offerings in those areas, if they comply with local laws and regulations,” the document from the Department of Public Health reads.

“We have done quite a bit of pre-work, all of the departments have gotten together to discuss this and talk how this would roll out and how we could manage this well. Including a very detailed look at some of our restaurants in Old Town which have unique issues and we have come up with solutions for many of them,” Haussler said.

Overall, the City Council was supportive of the idea and much of the discussion centered not on the value of the proposal but rather on a handful of legal technicalities such as how the city would define “adjacent” to ensure one business did not impede into the space of another.

Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua wanted to ensure that there were no fees or extra costs that restaurants would have to bear by taking advantage of the new program.

“We don’t have any plans for fees at this point to implement this program. We think we can handle it with our existing resources,” Haussler told Mouanoutoua.

Mayor Drew Bessinger, whose son owns an ABC-licensed business, asked Clovis City Attorney David Wolfe if there was a potential conflict of interest. Wolfe advised him there was none and Mayor Bessinger participated in debate and voted on the motion. The vote was a unanimous 5-0.

If businesses or restaurant owners have questions they can be directed to the City of Clovis.