Two cities offer programs to support restaurant reopenings

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With the approval of plans approved by the state of California to open Riverside County, the cities of Menifee and Murrieta have introduced plans which will allow restaurants to offer dine-in service with reduced capacities to maintain social distancing as per the California Department of Public Health guidelines.

Assisting restaurants located within the city of Murrieta with their reopening plans, the city is allowing restaurants to use some of their on-site parking to add additional locations for outdoor dining. The move comes after city manager Kim Summers used her emergency powers authorized in the city’s municipal code (2.60.060(A)(6)(a)).

Additional tables and seating should be in close proximity to the restaurant and must not block access to handicapped parking spaces or fire lanes.  Enforcement of on-site parking requirements for restaurants will be suspended temporarily under the program.

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In Menifee, a temporary program to expand options for restaurants, and other similar businesses, to operate in outdoor settings adjacent to their businesses was announced.

“The intent of the program is to allow for greater physical distancing and safety for patrons when the state’s public health orders allow restaurants and bars to resume sit-down service,” Gina Gonzalez, director of Menifee Economic Development, said.

Restaurants interested in adding new outdoor dining spaces or expanding their existing space on private property can submit a no-cost “over-the-counter” temporary use permit application to the city Community Development Department with a plan for the location and how they will lay out a space that accommodates customers and meets social distancing guidelines and health measures.

Businesses desiring to increase outdoor dining opportunities within privately owned property will need to ensure they receive approvals from the landlord or property owner as part of the application requirements.

“It’s important to do whatever we can to support our local businesses and protect the health and safety of the community,” Menifee Mayor Bill Zimmerman said. “Social distancing measures require restaurants to reduce their indoor dining capacities – in some cases by half what they would normally accommodate.

The new opportunity to temporarily add or expand outdoor dining areas on public and private properties provides more space for socially distanced dining and reduced wait times for customers.

Conditions for the program include dining areas not blocking vehicle or pedestrian traffic or fire access. Temporary perimeter barriers shall surround the outdoor dining area if location is in existing parking areas and should not exceed 36 inches. Dining tables must be placed to allow 6-foot social distancing between groups of customers and unless hours of operation are expressly extended or restricted by the permit, hours of operation for outdoor uses shall coincide with their normal hours of operation.

Other conditions include no amplified sound, restaurants must comply with all applicable state and county laws and regulations pertaining to outdoor dining – including but not limited to sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, outdoor dining areas cannot interfere with access under the Americans with Disabilities Act and expansions beyond the host building storefront/face or property boundaries will be permitted if the affected adjacent property owner’s consent in writing.

Permits will expire 30 days after the end of the Statewide Declaration of Public Health Emergency unless terminated sooner.

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Kim Harris can be reached by email at