More than 10 weeks since the first shelter in place order effectively shut down restaurants for everything except takeout and delivery service, Mill Valley restaurants are on the cusp of having additional outdoor dining options for their customers to enjoy in a safe, measured, socially distanced way.
County of Marin officials said Thursday night that restaurants can open for outdoor dining on June 1, a last minute announcement despite all indications that restaurants would have to wait several more weeks for the opportunity. However, City of Mill Valley and Mill Valley Chamber officials had been working for weeks to lay the groundwork for such a possibility, hoping to give restaurant owners ample time to prepare.
Led by Acting City Manager Alan Piombo, City Councilmembers John McCauley and Urban Carmel, Piazza D'Angelo co-owner and Mill Valley board chair Felicia Ferguson and City and Chamber staff, the group created a framework for restaurants to choose from a range of options to utilize the outdoor space around them. The options were driven by input from dozens of restaurant owners, and fall into three categories:
- Private use of private space (adding seating in private parking lots like those of Bungalow 44 and Mill Valley Lumber Yard (Watershed, Flour Craft, BOL) and the small Miller Ave shopping center downtown that contains BooKoo, for instance).
- Public use of private space (adding seating and/or parklets in parking spaces, on sidewalks and surrounding areas).
- Public use of public space (allowing people to consume their takeout in the Depot Plaza, socially distanced), as well as in other similar public spaces.
Those options will likely be altered or expanded upon as conditions change and in response to the needs of restaurants and their customers. The same framework will be available to other business types like retailers looking to expand onto the sidewalk and fitness gyms looking to hold outdoor classes, once those uses are permitted.
At its June 1st meeting, the City Council is set to consider a resolution and an urgency ordinance that would allow Piombo and his staff to approve applications from restaurants for permits, variances and licenses on a temporary basis for each of the aforementioned uses. The City's staff report and related documents will be available HERE.
"We are extremely grateful to the City for their efforts in expediting the creation of a framework to help our restaurants choose from a variety of outdoor dining opportunities, as well as a clear process to do so," said Ferguson. "The City has shown the requisite sense of urgency for this moment and has been a fantastic partner in doing the heavy lifting around the myriad legal and logistical issues related to these new options."
Given the late arrival of the news on outdoor dining, many local restaurants will continue to focus on takeout/delivery in the coming days as they move towards adding a range of outdoor dining options. Look for news in this space soon on those new outdoor dining options from restaurants around town.
Per the County of Marin's guidelines on outdoor dining, seated tables will be limited to no more than 6 people, all whom must must be within the same household group. As expected, there are significant requirements related to sanitization.
Indoor dining is expected to get the green light in the coming weeks along with extensive guidelines for both restaurants and their customers to follow to ensure a safe experience for all involved. Stay tuned.
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