Outdoor dining in the air: Nevada City extends dining option
Nevada City needs to decide what it’s going to do about outdoor dining, its interm manager said.
Since June 1, 2020, the city has allowed 19 restaurants to have dining on sidewalks. Thirteen of them remain operating outdoors, though seven aren’t in compliance and city staff will speak with them, interim City Manager Joan Phillipe said.
Concerns about restaurants operating outdoors have persisted, especially when considering they take up parking spaces. And with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s June 15 state reopening date approaching, which is expected to drop the color coded tier system and likely drop many COVID-19 restrictions, Nevada City needs to adopt a plan on how to move forward with business operations, Phillipe said.
“First and foremost is preserving the safety for dining customers, sidewalk pedestrians navigating dining facilities and everybody else in the city,” Phillipe said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “Right now, we lack guidelines (other than CDC compliance).”
She also noted there is potential for city liability as the encroachment permit, which allows the outdoor dining, requires the city to carry insurance to cover any potential disaster.
“There has been a recommendation by the police, fire department and the city engineer that outdoor dining not be allowed after June 15,” said Phillipe. “There were also requests to reopen Commercial Street, and some call the barricades in place unsightly.”
City Engineer Bryan McAlister said the tents some outdoor restaurants implemented to protect customers from the weather were the biggest issue.
“Originally the closure of Commercial Street was to allow outdoor dining,” he said. “But not every restaurant has access. So, there is a sense of inequity among some businesses. And the tents inhibit the sidewalk travel lane.”
Kim Crevoiserat, representing the Nevada City Winery, thanked the council for supporting outdoor dining. She also noted the winery was also one of the seven businesses cited as being out of compliance. However, Crevoiserat said the winery’s permit never listed any design limitations, otherwise it would have complied.
“We’re working on coming into compliance,” she said. “But we’re operating with a reduced staff. But we support outdoor dining to continue since some still hesitate to dine indoors.”
Vice Mayor Duane Strawser pointed out that Dr. Scott Kellerman, the county’s public health officer, as well as the media recently identified the county as having a poor percentage of COVID-19 cases per population numbers.
“There’s not enough people getting vaccinated …. and we’re loosening up too much,” he said. “No way we’ll get to herd immunity this way. But I have a hard time closing all the tents down. Some are doing things right. Let’s see some way of compromising with recommendations from the police and fire departments.”
Mayor Erin Minett concurred with Strawser, emphasizing the council needs more guidance.
“Let’s adopt a specific design guideline,” she said. “Limit the number of tables. And I’d like to see the tents gone — umbrellas will be all right. That’s my suggestion.”
The council pledged to work with city staff to draw up a more comprehensive plan, indicating outdoor dining might continue through Labor Day.
In other business, Phillipe called for postponing an appeal of a Planning Commission decision that denied a request to relocate and add a driveway to serve an existing residence at 230 American Hill Road.
The item was proposed by Scott Rice, the property owner. When the item was included on the consent agenda, the recommendation was to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision that denied Ritter’s request.
Ritter, part of the virtual audience, requested the council reschedule this agenda item when the council reconvenes in two weeks. But City Attorney Dean Pucci said the council will expedite a review of the item, and it will then have go through the public notification process.
Also, council agreed by unanimous vote to rework the wording of a plaque to be dedicated at Hirschman Pond that would honor the Hirschman brothers, pioneer miners and merchants. Bernie Zimmerman, chair of the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission, explained the Hirschman brothers were attracted to the county because of the Gold Rush era’s tolerance for diverse minority groups, including the Chinese and African Americans.
Council members agreed that rewording the plaque is a simple fix, and that it warranted using more forceful language demonstrating the county’s commitment for an integrated society.
Council member Gary Petersen said, “Language matters and it must be precise.” Added Minett, “It’s mostly about doing what’s right.”
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
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