The Fullerton City Council voted to end the temporary outdoor dining program in Fullerton at the March 15 meeting.

The decision reverts the outdoor dining permitting process to pre-pandemic guidelines. Businesses utilizing the temporary program will have until June 13 to apply for a standard outdoor dining permit. Businesses that do not apply or whose applications are denied have until Sept. 30 to remove their outdoor dining setups.

The council voted on three separate facets of the program. Businesses utilizing private space, businesses utilizing public space and the Walk on Wilshire portion of Wilshire Boulevard. The council voted unanimously to end the temporary program for businesses using private and public space.

People partaking in the outdoor dining experience at the Walk on Wilshire. Walk on Wilshire is an approximately 180 feet portion of Wilshire Boulevard that was closed to vehicle traffic and has been used for outdoor dining during the pandemic. As indicated by the sign, bicycle riders are expected to walk their bike through the Walk on Wilshire area.

Walk on Wilshire is an approximately 180 feet portion of Wilshire Boulevard that was closed to vehicle traffic and has been used for outdoor dining during the pandemic. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

The City Council voted 4-1 to end the temporary program for businesses using the Walk on Wilshire space but council members expressed some willingness to keep the space provided the city is able to obtain assurances from at least three businesses that they will lease the land and that a bike path is added.

Mayor Fred Jung was the only no vote, Jung would prefer to see Walk on Wilshire permanently removed. Citing safety concerns Jung said, “I will not compromise with Wilshire… that needs to be opened up, it’s a street and it should be treated as such.”

Chief of Police Robert Dunn said, “The actual Walk on Wilshire portion is pretty desolate at closing time” however Dunn went on to say, “outdoor dining has been problematic for police as it relates to public safety.”

What’s unknown is how many of the 23 businesses currently utilizing the temporary outdoor dining program on private land and the nine utilizing it on public space will apply for a standard outdoor dining permit. Additionally of those 32 potential applicants, how many would meet the more rigorous standards.

The temporary program was free and provided relaxed regulations. Businesses that apply for the standard permit that lease space from the city will do so at rates of $0.30, $.60, or $0.90 per square foot. Dependent upon whether the business serves alcohol and what type of alcohol they serve. Businesses that have outdoor dining on private land would only have to pay application fees related to the permit.

Back Alley bar and grill in Fullerton is one of nine restaurants that have been participating in the temporary outdoor dining program and utilizing public spaces, such as parking lots or sidewalks during the pandemic.

Back Alley bar and grill in Fullerton is one of nine restaurants that have been participating in the temporary outdoor dining program and utilizing public spaces, such as parking lots or sidewalks during the pandemic. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

There was some indication from the council that these rates, having been set in 2012, may be revisited and brought in line with current market value, although no decision has been made on when or if that will be on the council’s agenda.

Larry Houser, the owner of Bourbon Street and co-owner of The Bowery, whose restaurants have been utilizing a public parking lot through the temporary program, says they will pursue a standard outdoor dining permit.

Houser said, “It still benefits us and our customers…the customers want it and we want to do what the customers prefer.”

In what way outdoor dining changes by the sunsetting of the temporary program remains to be seen. However, there appears to be a healthy appetite for outdoor dining from both the city council and the community at large.

Houser said, “In certain areas in downtown, there are logistical issues when it comes to the flow of traffic and all that. I understand that but at the end of the day, the outdoor patios benefit our community.”

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Dustin Malek (He/Him) is a Journalism major residing in Fullerton, Ca. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and riding his bike around town.