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DUBLIN — Outdoor restaurant seating will continue in Dublin until at least September 2023 if the city council follows the planning commission’s recommendation, passed unanimously on June 28.

In addition to the time extension, the proposed ordinance changes also define a minimum outdoor seating area constructed in parking lots, at either 20% of the restaurant’s required parking or as two parking spaces, whichever is greater; a change that may entice participation from smaller restaurants that might have had less than two parking spaces to work with previously.

“I appreciate that the city has granted this sort of flexibility and recognized that even in a close-to-post COVID-19 world, or whatever we’re in, we’re fundamentally doing things differently (in) the way we work … and I think the way we dine,” said Chair Catheryn Grier.

Alternate Commissioner Kashef Qaadri added, “It’s just wonderful to hear that (there’s a desire) to not only preserve the businesses, but make sure that they have a solid footing and hopefully thrive and prosper in the future.”

The city initially established a COVID-19 Relief Temporary Use Permit application for “long-term temporary” land uses in June 2020, which the city council intended to remain in effect until June 2021.

However, restaurant owner feedback received in April 2021 “expressed an overwhelming desire for the city to continue to facilitate outdoor seating on both a long-term temporary and permanent basis through relaxed regulations,” according to the staff report, and the city council adopted an ordinance in August 2021 permitting outdoor seating until Sept. 30, 2022.

Further outreach in the form of a business survey, walking tour and roundtable meeting with restaurant owners in April again revealed strong support for the outdoor dining.

The permit program has received 47 applications since its inception.

Commissioner Stephen Wright suggested staff consider ordinance changes that extend beyond a year to encourage restaurants, especially new ones, to consider more permanent investments in their outdoor spaces.

But Associate Planner Gaspar Annibale disagreed.

“I think one year just gives us that time to assess and understand impacts,” he said. “Once the one year mark comes closer around, we can do that outreach with businesses, see where they’re at, and see how we can assist them during this COVID-19 environment.”