The owners of Menlo Park “dine-in” restaurants are financially suffering from having had their on-premise dining services shutdown by the County of San Mateo for almost three months, and they desperately need help from our city NOW. Take-out business and skeleton crews can only enable them to barely survive.
On June 4, the County revised its shelter in place order “to allow outdoor dining with safety measures and other restrictions to ensure social distancing.” These requirements will continue to severely constrain restaurant operations by reducing the density of table placement. A similar situation will occur when indoor dining is again allowed. So, restaurants need more outdoor dining space as soon as possible.
Like Menlo Park, Palo Alto has recently been considering closing streets for this purpose. However, last week it approved the installation of temporary outside dining areas in parking spaces located in front of ROOH (University Avenue) and the Peninsula Creamery (On Emerson). The one at ROOH is already completed and the other one will be finished this week.
Menlo Park needs to adopt a similar approach now. Publish guidelines, adopt a streamlined permit and inspection process, waive fees, set-up a hotline for restaurant and property owners, and assign city responsibilities to an accountable staff member who is capable of keeping things moving forward rapidly. Anything less will create problems and slow progress.
Adding a substantial number of new outdoor dining areas in downtown Menlo Park represents a HUGE opportunity for the city council and staff to help local business owners and improve our primary retail district.
it would be a damn shame to squander it!