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Fresno City Council Approves Outdoor Dining Plan



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Three Fresno city councilmembers — Mike Karbassi, Luis Chavez, and Paul Caprioglio — received unanimous support from their colleagues Thursday for an emergency amendment to let restaurants expand their footprint onto sidewalks, patios, and parking spaces.

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“Restaurants have been especially hard hit by the pandemic.” — Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi 

“Restaurants contribute 16% of our sales tax base and thousands of jobs in this community,” said Karbassi, who represents northwest Fresno.

Even with the state granting Fresno County the green light to reopen, social distancing inside restaurants will reduce seating capacity indoors. Karbassi’s hope is that the ordinance allows restaurants enough flexibility to make it worth their while to fully reopen and rehire workers.

Emergency Amendment

The approved amendment adds a section to the municipal code “regarding outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.” 

“This is an effort to help restaurants, and the California ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) is also on board because now they’re issuing what’s called the COVID-19 temporary catering authorization,” Karbassi said Thursday. “Restaurants have been especially hard hit by the pandemic.”

Restaurants could put tables on, “sidewalks, outdoor areas in close proximity to the restaurants, and possibly parking lots, with safety measures,” according to Karbassi. “Some restaurants will benefit from this option more because of outdoor dining areas and well ventilated or open-air areas.

“I look forward to working with the restaurant industry along with my colleagues and the mayor and mayor-elect (Jerry Dyer) on other strategies to help them reopen and recover.”

Business Fines Forgiven

Karbassi says he’s also introducing legislation soon to eliminate previously issued fines for pandemic-related citations.

“This includes great businesses like the Elbow Room, Crazy Bernie’s Furniture, Fresno Chrysler Dodge, “Karbassi said. “This will not, though, include any flagrant violators or those fines for price gouging.”

The Waffle Shop in northwest Fresno is not on the list for rescinding fines. Shop owner Ammar Ibrahim opened his breakfast and lunch shop the Thursday before Mother’s Day to dine-in customers, defying city orders. He received a warning, then two citations with fines of $1,000 and $5,000.

The City Attorney’s Office must still define a “flagrant” violator. That definition will determine if the Waffle Shop’s fines are eliminated.