The Capitola Esplanade aggressively adapted to outdoor dining.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Local Business

Tussle over outdoor dining in Capitola looms: Despite a summer extension, permanency is still in question

Capitola restaurant managers and city officials weigh in on the value of making outdoor dining permanent. There will be a hearing for preliminary city council feedback on June 10.

To park or to sit, that’s the looming question in Capitola Village.

The beach community recently extended its outdoor dining ordinance until Sept. 7; however, the city is continuing to figure out how best to institute a permanent outdoor dining policy.

“Without that, we would’ve had to close this location,” English Ales Brewery general manager Jared Flower said.

The taproom opened last year as a satellite location for its parent brewery based in Marina.

“Every manager and owner I’ve spoken with loves it and wants to keep it,” Flower said of the outdoor dining parklets.

The issue at hand is how the city will navigate the offset cost of lost parking fees. Flower is hoping that the city offers reduced planning or permit fees, but understands, if outdoor dining is to remain, the parklets won’t be free.

Currently, several parking spaces along the Esplanade and Monterey Avenue have been converted into outdoor dining areas for nearby restaurants — a shift that has cost the city nearly $140,000 annually in lost parking revenue.

Capitola in December 2020
Capitola in December 2020.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“A lot of restaurants like it,” Capitola business owner Josh Fischer said about the street shutdown. “[It] has definitely helped save businesses.” Fischer, who owns The Daily Grind Coffee & Bottle Shop and Left Coast Sausage Worx, said he can understand why there is some division over the street closure between business owners and city officials.

As tourism season approaches and traffic picks back up, parking will become a factor again. However, doing away completely with the parklets might not be the answer, either, he said. Fischer suggested the city start by shutting down San Jose Avenue for outdoor dining and using that as a benchmark to see how commerce benefits.

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Ryan Bacon, general manager at nearby Zelda’s on the Beach, is in the pro-parking camp. Already having an outdoor patio at the restaurant, Bacon believes the sooner the city returns to normal and frees up spaces for vehicular traffic, the better. The issue is definitely on the city’s agenda, and soon, Capitola Mayor Yvette Brooks said.

The city established a goal to develop a long-term outdoor dining program. “We are currently collecting information, including a survey of restaurants, analysis of fiscal data, and coordinating with other cities in the county,” Brooks wrote via email. “We plan to hold a hearing for preliminary Council feedback on June 10.”

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“With sales tax it is beneficial,” Margaux Keiser said of the extra business gained by the extra outdoor dining available.

Keiser doubles as both the bar manager at Paradise Beach Grille along the Esplanade and a member of Capitola City Council. Keiser acknowledged that Paradise Beach was able to navigate the pandemic via takeout orders and an existing patio at the rear of the restaurant, but said customers are more inclined to want to sit outside nowadays. Especially in the front of the restaurant, where customers may be able to bring their dogs and sit outside.

“It has been good for businesses that have been able to utilize it and has made [Capitola] more attractive,” she said.

Tell us what you think. Should outdoor dining remain a permanent fixture in Capitola Village? Send an email to news@lookoutlocal.com.