City of Sacramento logoThe City of Sacramento has extended the expanded outdoor restaurant dining started during the pandemic for another year with the goal of making it permanent.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the popular program, until June 30, 2022. Al fresco dining helped many restaurants survive when indoor dining was shut down around the state. City Parking Manager Matt Eierman said 122 restaurants are currently participating in the City program.

Eierman said City staff will work with stakeholder groups, including business improvement districts, to bring a more uniform, aesthetically pleasing look to the street and sidewalk dining spaces, which today vary greatly. They will also address issues like ADA access. One possibility would be to pre-design structures that restaurants can choose from to keep costs down.

“Staff is really going to work to formalize this program,” Eierman said.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg called the emergency relaxation of permits for outdoor dining on streets and sidewalks “one of the few silver linings of the pandemic.”

“It has been a most difficult period in our community history for businesses and workers, and yet during this period we showed how outdoor dining enlivens our street and our business corridors. It’s a no-brainer for a city that loves the outdoors, and it must become a permanent feature of our city.”

The City used federal CARES Act program to help restaurants set up outdoor dining. A total of 229 restaurants received grants.

Aziz Ballarbi-Salah, owner and manger of several midtown and downtown restaurants, including Aioli Bodega Espanola and Brasserie du Monde, said outdoor dining was essential to keeping restaurants going during the pandemic and remains essential today now that people want to go out to eat again but have fewer eateries to choose from since some closed permanently or did not reopen.

“We are doing Saturday business on a Tuesday,” he said.