For many restaurants, dining outside is the main option for serving customers beyond takeout. What has bloomed along with these parking lot patios and repurposed spaces is a sense of community and local pride. For some businesses, these new spaces show them how supportive Bakersfield can be.
For Los Molcajetes, customer support grew into a partnership when owners Mini Torres and Agustin Ortiz started work on the outdoor dining space in their parking lot.
Although the Brundage Lane restaurant has an existing small patio, it wouldn't accommodate many customers with the required distancing, said Adrianne Pietz, who handles marketing for the business.
"Mini had their architect look (at the property) and he recommended they get a tent," Pietz said. "They got their permits. When she got the space, she said it didn't feel like a very good experience."
So Torres reached out to their friends Rita and Jere White, who along with being longtime customers own White Forest Nursery.
Rita White said, "We've known Mini and Agustin for a long time. ... They're wonderful and gracious people."
Torres headed out to the east Bakersfield nursery looking for some plants to improve the outdoor dining space.
"I looked and I happened to have many of the same pots," White said of the tall, textured, green pots that slightly resemble cactus. "I said, 'I can make it really look like a nice outdoor patio. Do you want to do it?'"
Torres agreed and the Whites and their staff got to work, filling the pots with summer blooms to loan to the restaurant.
White said, "We have trailing petunias. As they keep growing, they will spill over and make it look prettier. Some have queen palms. Bougainvillea are in most of them, pink and red and some variegated ones. The reason we did this is that they're going to bloom most of the summer. Petunias will bloom all summer with a full summer bloom."
Bougainvillea also has some natural defense with thorny branches, White said. While diners are a safe distance away, the thorns may deter anyone trying to mess with the pots, which are also anchored into place, outside of business hours.
The restaurant staff has done a good job keeping the plants watered, said White, who also checks in when she's recently picked up takeout.
If outdoor dining continues past the summer, White said she can add some winter annuals that will balance the bougainvillea, which goes dormant in cooler months.
Cassie Bittle at KC Steakhouse is also anticipating a longer run for outdoor dining. Despite the initial temporary order for outdoor service, she started planning for at least three months out. Luckily, like Los Molcajetes, she had the support of customers and fellow businesses.
"It was definitely a community effort," Bittle said of the outdoor space they're calling KC Stockyard. "Karen and Paul Sturgeon put up the canopy. They got a construction crew in to do it. After they were done, I sat down on the ground and cried for about 30 minutes."
There's been a steady accumulation of misters for the comfort of guests and staff. Carpet Outlet Plus offered Bittle a good deal on remnant carpet, Gandola Landscape and Lawn Care loaned the restaurant some trees as did longtime supporter Majid Mojibi.
"We have these trees from his home, which he let me borrow for this pandemic. They have beautiful yellow blossoms. We tried to make an oasis out there."
Bittle said she expects her mother, Missy Pelton, will keep bringing by pieces to add to the ambiance just like she brings in Christmas ornaments around the holidays. Regular customers have also contributed some themed memorabilia to make the space more like the F Street restaurant, which has been in business for 81 years.
"They've brought signs and little things," Bittle said. "It makes them feel like it is their little piece of KC as well."
KC Steakhouse has also recently teamed with the junior livestock division of the Kern County Fair to support the students who have been raising animals they intended to show at the fair.
Although the fair was canceled this year, there is a virtual livestock event planned. Bittle said $5 from every entree sold in August and September will go toward a fund to purchase animals for sale.
Despite hardships, Bittle said she's seen a lot of positivity among business owners.
"Through COVID-19, Bakersfield has really unified. I have conversations with restaurant owners on a daily basis now. There are 30 to 40 of us talking amongst each other.
"That kind of camaraderie is going to really help us in the future."
More outdoor dining spots
The list continues to grow for local spots offering outdoor dining. These are the latest we gathered but for complete listings visit bakerfield.com/entertainment/food.
If you know of other businesses not included on the online list, send information to email@example.com.
Cafe Crepes (1028 Truxtun Ave.)
El Capitan Mexican Grill & Cantina (4240 California Ave., Suite C)
Eureka! (10520 Stockdale Highway)
Idle Spur Cafe (31911 Highway 46, McFarland)
Jin Sushi (1600 19th St.)
La Costa at the Ice House (3401 Chester Ave., Suite B)
Outback Steakhouse (5051 Stockdale Highway)
Pappy's Coffee Shop (10595 Rosedale Highway)