One year ago, Mayor Steve Vaus made a simple request at the July 7 city council meeting in response to the state of California reinstating a ban on indoor dining: loan restaurants picnic tables to use outdoors. The tables would be available for the restaurants at no cost to use for as long as needed. And when they were no longer needed, the tables would be returned for use at city parks.
Council agreed and the next day the first tables were delivered to Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. Since then, 104 picnic tables have been loaned to Poway restaurants and 71 tables are still in use.
“This is a shining example of how our city handles adversity,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said. “In Poway we come together, get creative, work hard and invariably end up stronger than ever.”
At last year’s council meeting Vaus noted how Poway had already made it possible for restaurants to expand outdoor dining, but most restaurants simply didn’t have the extra cash to purchase the outdoor seating. And while the business community had already weathered tremendous hardships caused by closures and restrictions, restaurants were especially hard hit.
“Outdoor seating was a great idea from the mayor to help businesses that did not have outdoor seating and make up for the closed in dining,” Alejandra Barajas, of El Ranchito, said.
Not only was El Ranchito beyond grateful for the tables, Barajas said their customers were, too: “They were tired of eating in their vehicles, so they were very thankful this was an option.”
Christina Rodriguez, of Coney Island Pizzeria, called the benches a blessing.
“The fact that we were still able to serve people in this community during hard times is what makes the biggest difference,” Rodriguez said. “And the outpouring of continued support is amazing!”
“As challenging and painful as the pandemic was, it created a surge of caring and support in Poway,” Vaus said. “These picnic tables were both a lifeline for our Poway restaurants and generated new opportunities and interest for dining out in our city.”
Even though restrictions for indoor dining have ended, the popularity of outdoor dining continues. Because of the positive feedback from both restaurants and diners, City Council directed staff to amend the city’s municipal code to present standards that will allow expanded outdoor dining on a permanent basis. While those standards are being finalized Poway restaurants can continue the modifications made during the pandemic.