Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill has expanded its outdoor dining area to its Downtown Vista parking lot.
If you haven’t heard, indoor dining is out and outdoor dining is in. And so it goes for restaurants across the country as a second wave of shutdown orders are in effect.
In Vista, Calif., – even before the most recent indoor dining ban began July 13 – city officials already had measures in place to help restaurants and microbreweries shift some of their dining outside. Under the Urgency Ordinance No. 2020-9-, the Vista City Council voted in June to approve temporarily relaxing regulations related to signage for all businesses and outdoor seating for restaurants and microbreweries due to the local emergency created by the Covid-19 pandemic. The emergency ordinance is part of the city’s Business Economic Recovery Plan, created in May in response to the devastating impacts on the business community as a result of the crisis.
For many Vista restaurants and breweries, the expansion into designated outdoor areas such as adjacent parking lots, streets and sidewalks, has brought much relief to their business during these uncertain times. The City of Vista is also communicating with local property managers about how their tenants can take advantage of the new ordinance. One of them is Dana Duncan, Property Manager for Vestar, which manages Vista Village.
“This is a challenging time for our tenants. As a property manager you want to assist in any way you can to make sure they are successful,” Duncan said, adding that Kevin Ham, the City’s Economic Development Director, reached out to her about the new signage and outdoor seating ordinance. “Given all the mandates and rules changing every week, restaurants and other businesses are having to reinvent their business model over and over again. What the City of Vista is doing is great and it allows me to offer our tenants some solutions to expand their dining rooms so they can stay afloat.”
One of those Vista Village tenants is Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewing. The popular pizzeria and brewery – which has called Vista home for 16 years – has been mainly relying on an increase of takeout orders from regular customers during the pandemic, and even created a new item, a Do-It-Yourself pizza kitfor people to take home.
“The response we have received has been fantastic, so much so that we will keep this item on our menu even after we are back to business as usual,” said owner Dan Barro.
Customers have more outdoor dining options at Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery in Vista Village.
For Barro, business during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has been “a roller coaster ride,” with his brewery business taking the biggest hit. So when the City enacted the emergency outdoor seating ordinance, he was a bit relieved. The eatery has expanded the dining area adjacent to the Cinépolis theater with an extra 32 seats.
“This has been a big hit with our customers and really has a fantastic atmosphere,” said Barro, adding that Lamppost also has new signage announcing that the pizzeria is open for take-out. “The City of Vista has been very proactive in helping our business stay afloat. They have worked with our landlord and have been really prompt with their approval process.”
As for his staff, Barro said, “They have been doing a fantastic job adapting to all of the adjustments we have had to make. There is such a connection between our staff and community and it really shows when something like this happens. We are lucky to have great customers, a great staff and a supportive city.”
Mia Davis, owner of Mikko Sushi in Downtown Vista, is also forging ahead, with some help from the City. Like many business owners, she has had to shift gears and adapt quickly to ever-changing Covid-19 mandates, while trying to keep her restaurant afloat and customer base intact. Mikko Sushi, located at 330 Main Street, re-opened for dining in late May, with barriers between booths for safety and social distancing. But since the recent July 13 re-closure of all indoor dining in the county, Davis had to get creative on how to keep her employees working and customers happy. That’s when she heard about the City of Vista’s emergency outdoor seating ordinance. Thanks to the ordinance, Mikko Sushi now has an extra 11 tables along the sidewalk for outdoor dining. The City also approved for her to have temporary fencing around the outdoor dining area. Davis, who opened Mikko Sushi in Vista in 2018, also has an Escondido location, where that city has allowed her to use some parking spaces for tables and tents.
“You have to be creative and adapt to change,” said Davis, who took immediate action to add a temporary outdoor dining area after the recent closures. “If I didn’t have outdoor dining, I would have had to terminate some of my employees. Local customers have been very supportive and the City has been great to us. I’m glad I opened a restaurant in Vista. It’s an up and coming town with lots of potential.”
Meanwhile, on East Broadway in Downtown Vista, Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern & Grill has transformed its parking lot into an outdoor dining area, which has proven to be popular among locals and visitors alike.
Ralph Lizarraga, Director of Hospitality for Belching Beaver Brewery, gave more details.
“We fenced off our existing parking lot. We drew up plans that allowed for ‘cabana’ style seating that wouldn’t be able to be moved around. We have easy-up tents with picnic tables throughout the parking lot. We also moved our host stand to the parking lot entrance. We now only have one entrance for the entire property to make sure everyone who comes in knows all of the policies and procedures we have put in place. We wanted to keep the extension to the parking lot, and decided not to try and move on to the sidewalk. We felt it would be easier to keep things safe and under control.”
“Being able to expand our seating to the parking lot has been a huge help,” Lizarraga added. “It allowed us to bring basically our entire staff back to work. Luckily, most people are very understanding and appreciate the ability to be able to come out and have a bite to eat and a drink, even if it’s outside.”
Since the July countywide indoor dining closures, Belching Beaver Brewery has also expanded outdoor dining at its Pub980 location on Park Center Drive in Vista, which has an existing outdoor patio.
Lizarraga said Belching Beaver Brewery’s success wouldn’t be possible without the help from the City, especially during the current pandemic.
“The City has been a great partner for us throughout all of this. They were supportive right away of all of our expansion ideas. They also provided some signage and web promotion capability. With all of the regulations and the twists and turns, it’s been a relief that the City is helping businesses when they can.”
“We want to boost local efforts that nurture and strengthen our businesses and support workers, while fostering connectivity with the community,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter. “The City wants to help pave a path forward to ensure our businesses survive this pandemic.”