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Imperial Extends Outdoor Dining Ordinance Through June 2021

IMPERIAL — Businesses will now have the option of converting their outdoor spaces into service areas through June 2021 following the extension of an emergency ordinance adopted in October.

The ordinance was extended during a meeting of the Imperial City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“The urgency ordinance was implemented on Oct. 7 to allow for the use of outdoor space and parking space for businesses within the city of Imperial to utilize to serve the public,” Imperial City Planner Lisa N. Tylenda said during the council meeting. “We’re requesting an extension of the urgency ordinance.”

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An initial 45-day urgency ordinance was approved by the city, without an ordinance’s customary first and second readings and 30-day enactment period, to permit certain commercial businesses to temporarily establish outdoors with limited and modified services due to the community presence of COVID-19, according to the council’s agenda reports.

Dining establishments can only serve customers in an outdoors setting for those businesses within counties in the purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for Economic Recovery. Imperial County has been in the most-restrictive purple, or “widespread,” tier since the state moved to the color-coded system.

Johnny’s Burritos in downtown Imperial is shown at night with its outdoor dining setup. The Imperial City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 18, approved extending an ordinance allowing for outdoor dining in Imperial through June 2021. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF IMPERIAL

A major reason for the ordinance extension was to allow businesses to continue to operate safely in open areas in consideration to the ongoing pandemic that has COVID cases surging at alarming rates throughout the country, Tylenda explained during the meeting. The extension became effective immediately upon its approval.

Under the extended ordinance, the city now temporarily provides businesses with flexibility to allow for commercial and retail services to increase utilization of outdoor areas in “cordoned-off” spaces like parking areas to accommodate customers without interfering with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility parking requirements, according to the agenda report.

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The city hopes the added flexibility will assist commercial and retail businesses by partially offsetting the decreased business capacity that many businesses have had to deal with as a result of social-distancing guidelines that require customers to be 6 feet apart, according requirements made by the Imperial County Department of Public Health.

“The impacts of this action will be fiscally positive to the city,” Community Development director Othon Mora noted in his report.

Local businesses eligible to operate outdoors with limited and modified services include restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, hair salons and barbershops, auto repairs shops, body-waxing studios, clothing and shoe stores, dance studios, places of worship, day camps, dry cleaners, family entertainment centers, home and furnishing stores, massage therapy studios and pet groomers, according to the agenda reports.

The ordinance also suspends regulations governing outdoor business service areas and includes a fee waiver for outdoor business services permits and parking space closure fees, which are normally collected by the community development department.

Any commercial business hoping to utilize the new ordinance to offer outdoor service on their private property must apply to the community development department and provide all information deemed necessary by the city’s community development director, according to the agenda report.

Additionally, the business will have to be inspected by members of the Imperial Fire Department, Police Department and the city’s building and safety division and code enforcement officer to determine whether the business is in compliance with the ordinance, noted the agenda report.

The inspection will also ensure that newly designated outdoor business service areas do not encroach on any public rights of way and do not interfere with required handicapped parking spaces or fire and other emergency access areas, stated the agenda report.

Businesses will also have to comply with all applicable laws relating to litter, noise and other livability matters and forgo amplified music in the designated outdoor commercial retail service areas, the ordinance notes.

The city’s community development director may also impose other conditions or limitations on a restaurant to protect against adverse impacts from noise, traffic, parking, fire, people with disabilities and travel.

Micro Grants Awarded by City

The city also hoped to provide a few local businesses with more direct financial support by announcing a second round of micro grants. The city received 14 applications from local businesses and independent contractors hoping to receive aid from the city’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Small Business Assistance Program. Only 12 have been found to be eligible to receive the assistance, according to the council agenda report.

The city awarded $5,000 in micro grant funds to nine local businesses, including Beauty Mark Salon, Classic Clippers, Faith and Wellness Fitness Camp, Imperial Truss and Lumber, Knowledge Tree Preschool and Childcare Center, SlowFlow Yoga Studio, Studio PM, Valley Dry Cleaning, WaterTek.

Likewise, the city awarded two independent contractors with $2,500 in micro grant funds, which were given to G-Rob Athletics and Thomas Hett, personal trainer of IV HiiT.

For more information on the new outdoor service ordinance or to learn more about the city’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Small Business Assistance Program please contact the city at 760-355-4371