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Some Fountain Valley restaurants request extension for outdoor dining permits

Silky Sullivan's in Fountain Valley.
The owner of Silky Sullivan’s in Fountain Valley is one of several residents and local business owners who have expressed support for a continuance of outdoor dining in the city in the wake of a surge driven by the Omicron variant.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A handful of residents and local business owners approached the Fountain Valley City Council this week to ask for another extension for the allowance of outdoor dining areas.

Outdoor dining became popular with the public, and in many respects a necessity for the survival of local eateries, as restrictions were implemented to attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus that can lead to COVID-19.

In September, the council had granted an extension on temporary outdoor dining permits through Jan. 10.

The contagious Omicron variant has served as a reminder that, despite rising vaccination rates and the reopening of businesses, the pandemic is not over.

Lamppost Pizza in Fountain Valley.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A statewide mask mandate that was scheduled to come to an end on Jan. 15 recently was extended for another month.

“We built a very nice outside area in about two or three weeks,” Bill Madden, the owner of Silky Sullivan’s Restaurant and Irish Pub, said. “We wanted that area to be open. We didn’t want to enclose it because enclosing that, we thought, would be very similar to just dining inside if you put tent walls around it.

“We kind of kept that like that, and what it did was it made people feel safe, so they responded. They hadn’t been able to get out and feel safe, but with outside dining, they felt safe. We struggled to do the best we could to make people happy in those terrible times. COVID is still here. It’s still on and people still want to feel safe.”

Speaking on behalf of Au Lac, a Vietnamese vegan restaurant, William Tran told the council that many of their customers choose to come to them because they have outdoor dining, and he requested another extension of the temporary outdoor dining permits until the virus surge subsides.

Lamppost Pizza in Fountain Valley.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“These outdoor dining structures really help us, really give us a fighting chance to survive this pandemic as a business,” Tran said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to comply with any safety measures or anything like that. We’re willing to continue to cooperate with all of those as long as we can keep that outdoor dining structure.”

The call for the outdoor dining permits to be extended is not likely to be accommodated at this time with restaurants not facing capacity restrictions, Fountain Valley Mayor Patrick Harper said in a phone interview on Thursday, though the situation remains fluid and that could change.

“We are not planning to extend it at this time, but we did have some restaurants that commented on it, and we’ll see how it is in a couple of weeks,” Harper said. “Right now, they have the opportunity to apply for outdoor dining permits. There is a process to grant those through the city, but they have to talk to their landlords and agree with them.”

Harper added that prior to the expiration of the most recent extension for the temporary permits, he had seen establishments with outdoor dining voluntarily taking down those setups.

“We definitely are sympathetic to the restaurant owners,” Harper said. “I think we’ve been pretty helpful over the last year and a half at sort of providing this outdoor dining option to them, and the option is still available there.”

Cambalache Grill in Fountain Valley.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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