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Local Features

Experiment Underway To Help Struggling South Coast Restaurants Via Outdoor Dining

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A band is playing on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.  Hundreds of people walk up and down the street.  It’s dusk, and business is booming at some restaurants on the 500 block of State Street.

People are eating dinner and having cocktails at tables set up on sidewalks, and in some spots, even literally on the street. 

It’s part of an experiment to help Santa Barbara’s struggling downtown restaurants, by closing off much of the street so they can move tables outdoors to maintain social distancing.

Christine Clark is sitting at a table outside of Holdren’s Steaks & Seafood.  Every table is occupied.  Clark is having dinner with her friend, Rosanna Jimeno.  They say they are excited to be out for the first time in weeks.

Up the street a few hundred feet, one of Santa Barbara’s favorite restaurants actually has a line.  There’s about a dozen people waiting for a table at Joe’s.

The sidewalk has social distancing marks to try to keep those in line separated.  Some people are wearing masks, but many aren’t.

Santa Barbara took the unusual step of telling people online not to come visit over Memorial Day weekend, an unheard of step for what’s normally the kickoff to its peak tourist season.  But people did come.

One couple from Orange County found that even with the closures, with the nice weather it’s still a welcoming place to visit.  Ray Vegara say masks and all, Santa Barbara is still a welcoming getaway.

Santa Barbara’s outdoor dining experiment is just thaT: an experiment.  Even many of those which didn’t close say they were having a tough time making it financially with takeout only.

They are hoping that by spreading outdoors, it will give them the room they need to social distance diners from each other.  They’re also hoping it will create an atmosphere which will encourage people to want to come eat.

It’s off to a big start on Memorial Day weekend, but the test will come during the next few weeks, to see if the effort picks up momentum. 

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