In San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, businesses have been encouraged to take advantage of outdoor spaces around them, and in cities like Paso Robles, Solvang, Santa Barbara and Ventura, cities have shut down main thoroughfares to give restaurants more room to expand into the streets and sidewalks.
“It’s a really great opportunity to continue to take care of our guests,” said Warren Butler, a managing consultant at Chase Restaurant in Santa Barbara. “It ended up making a big difference, especially when they said you couldn’t have anyone inside.”
Butler has seen people embrace the new way of dining. He praised Santa Barbara’s climate as one of the attractions that draws people to the region, and while it’s been a bit chilly once the sun goes down, the weather has been exceptional.
He’s also seen a lot more people coming back to the streets of Santa Barbara as people bike, skate and walk their dogs through closed sections of State Street. Because of the outdoor dining section, Chase has more visibility, and Butler said the restaurant is doing more business now than it did the previous year – even with Fiesta happening last year, and not this.
Butler hopes his section of State Street stays closed to cars, even when the pandemic has passed.
“People are embracing being outside,” Butler said. “It brings out old people and young people and families and millennials and singles. It just makes so much sense.”
Jojo Ramirez, the owner of Capriccio in Ventura, is also a nurse, and her big concern was safety. She treats her customers like family, so she wanted people to be able to come out without worrying about being exposed.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to see everyone,” Ramirez said. “Ventura is that kind of town. … It gives everyone a chance for normal, even though it’s not normal. We’re giving them the new normal.”