When Governor Newsom called to end indoor dining in March, restaurant owners in San Joaquin County got creative. In addition to places that already offered outdoor seating, restaurants without a patio space—or those with a limited patio space—started taking over parking lots with tables, chairs, and tents when stay-at-home orders relaxed a bit in May.
Temporary outdoor spaces have been all the rage across California due to the orders, which include stipulations that tables are placed six feet apart, and Lincoln Center seems to be a mecca for the trend, in part thanks to the City of Stockton’s decision to offer free outdoor seating permits to businesses to keep them on their feet. As a result, when you walk into the shopping center today, it looks a bit different. There may be less parking, but there are a lot more chairs for those looking to eat and social distance.
Even when orders for indoor seating changed—in October Governor Newson allowed for 25 percent capacity inside of restaurants with some stipulations—outdoor dining did not dissipate. Instead, restaurant owners are still utilizing the space to serve more guests while indoor dining is limited. And some patrons seem to like the change, especially when weather is nice and outdoor dining is a privilege they may otherwise have had to wait for.
Michael Midgley of Midgley’s Public House says his eatery continues to offer expanded patio dining and will as long as Lincoln Center allows it. Lincoln Center isn’t the only place taking over parking spaces with dining tables, though. Just about every restaurant that has room to expand is taking advantage. For Nesrin Shabbar at American Waffle Diner, COVID-19 encouraged her to start using her restaurant’s existing patio space, which she previously only had one table on. “I bought all new furniture for outdoors,” she says. “We are going to keep outdoor seating even after COVID.” For the time being, Nesrin also has expanded into her parking lot, offering covered tents for patrons looking to dine outside.
While the tents have been protecting diners from the elements in warmer months, some patios will start to put heaters in to keep guests warm while they can keep outdoor food service going. When festive decorations and even falling (faux) snow, dining outdoors may become an even more magical affair in Lincoln Center this winter.