With hot weather coming on, a new permit intended to aid businesses struggling under coronavirus restrictions has been slow to take off.
Only a handful of restaurants and retail outlets have tried to take advantage of a special permit allowing business operations to expand into the parking lots, sidewalks and even the streets in some instances.
Both the city of Bakersfield and Kern County offer different versions of the permit. When they were first introduced in late May and early June, they were presented as a quick and easy way for businesses to increase capacity while still meeting state social distancing requirements.
However, only one business in Bakersfield has received a permit as of Tuesday, and the city is reviewing the applications of two more. In Kern County, four restaurants in Kernville have been approved to expand operations into their parking lots.
Despite the slow start, the city is holding out hope that more businesses will take advantage of its offer.
“We want to encourage these businesses to have a creative way to reopen. Whether it’s retail or restaurant, we’re trying to do whatever we can to help them reopen safely and also be able to get as much business for themselves as they can,” city spokesman Joe Conroy said.
He added that the hot summer weather might be dissuading some businesses from expanding outdoors.
For Tina Marie’s Cafe, the permit the business received Friday came just in time for Father’s Day.
“People feel more comfortable sitting outside with everything that’s been going on,” said Tina Brown, owner of the cafe. “A lot of the patrons felt really comfortable. Before it got really hot, the weather was like 73 or 77 at the hottest before we stopped and they really really enjoyed it. They appreciated it.”
Tina Marie’s is the only business in Bakersfield to have received a special permit. The cafe set out four tables under umbrellas down the sidewalk with another in a different part of the property.
“It actually looked really good,” Brown said. “(It) still allowed access through for pedestrians and was wheelchair accessible. For Father’s Day it worked out really well.”
With the hot weather coming on, Brown said she took down the outdoor seating for the time being, but would bring it back if the weather permitted. She added that the setup would be ideal for the fall months if coronavirus restrictions are still in place then.
Conroy said the city would continue allowing the permits to stand as long as the coronavirus state of emergency lasted. With cases of COVID-19 projected to continue rising into next year, the emergency could last for quite a while.
“We’re excited to be able to offer something like this to these businesses,” he said. “Some or all of them are limited to 50 percent or so, and that makes it difficult for them to reopen. So if they have an alternative location where they can bring in more customers, we’re happy to help them be active again.”