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  • Writer's pictureCRAIKER

How Restaurants Might Survive

Everybody loves to visit a restaurant. Whether it’s a basic tavern, or a high-end brasserie’, our fondest memories reside in them. And yet, this current Pandemic has ​stifled many of any desire for indoor restaurant dining. Fortunately, we have the best weather in the world and eating outdoors​ can continue into October, sometimes early November.

Many local eateries are staying on life-support with food pick-up. Even cocktails are served like a fast food window operation. Currently indoor food service and wine tasting is off the table…no pun intended. If a restaurant has a patio or deck big enough to observe social distancing it can get a permit to serve, but what if one doesn’t have an outdoor retreat?

The City of Napa is receiving applications from local restaurants to use existing public walkways and areas for outdoor seating. Currently there are 17 applications. After discussing with the Downtown Napa Association (DNA), Chamber of Commerce Restaurant Advisory Group, the Small Business Recovery Taskforce (SBRT) and others there was consensus expanding outdoor seating would help, not to mention show vibrancy on our streets.

San Francisco has developed Shared Spaces Program, to allow neighborhood businesses to use a portion of the public right-of-way, sidewalks, portions of streets, or proximate public parks, plazas or spaces.

The restrictions are tough but not impossible. They require cooperation between staff and customers to maintain social protocols, limited seating, constant hand washing and masks at all times, except when eating of course.

Other considerations include maintaining parking and pedestrian access including disabled accessibility. Proposals must go through Planning, Public works, Fire Marshall and Building Department. One may need a CASP professional or an architect to help with the application and plan.

This should help many eateries survive the Summer, but here’s the problem nobody wants to face: this Pandemic is likely to be around long past November, December and probably continue in some form well into 2021, even if a magic vaccine appears. I’m not a pessimist but looking realistically at the science. That means restaurants and any commercial businesses searching for temporary outdoor sidewalk space should be looking at covered or tent structures. The Fire Department will say, if it’s attached to the building it’s a structure, and could require fire sprinklers.

Such a shelter can’t be enclosed on 4 sides but could be open on 2, tall enough to minimize the COVID-19 aerosol effect and maintain proper ventilation, light and heat.

Here is a concept to consider: Of the three lanes on Main Street at Veterans Park, block off two and construct a “temporary” structure for shared common use by the half dozen adjacent restaurants. The sidewalks will still function and an emergency vehicle lane will remain. There are multiple locations throughout the city that could house multiple eateries, wine tasting or retail facilities. All it takes is providing light, heat, ventilation, and political will.

One thing on Main Street I’m happy to see is Fagiani’s renovation. I unsuccessfully championed eliminating the 1940’s cheap tile and round windows 10 years ago but lost.Restoring the historic front is a gift to the street. Well worth waiting.

Chris d Craiker AIA/NCARB

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