Frigid dining in parking lots and designated street “parklets” will continue into winter if diners choose to battle the elements rather than take a chance with COVID-19 indoors.

That looked uncertain Monday as the city sent a letter to restaurant owners demanding they “deconstruct and vacate any and all outdoor dining installations [and] remove associated barriers” by the end of Sunday.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Alan Webber indicated the city would amend the emergency ordinance for outdoor dining and alcohol service set to expire Sunday. He introduced a resolution at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to allow street and parking lot dining and libation to continue.

The updated ordinance won’t go into effect until some time in November, but the Oct. 31 termination date won’t be enforced either, Webber said.

“I think we are going to follow common sense,” Webber said. “If we know we are going to extend it, we’re not going to have people tear things down and have to building them up again the next week.”

That was not what Tomasita’s and Atrisco Cafe & Bar owner George Gundrey was thinking Monday when he got the hand-delivered letter written by Jason Kluck, the city’s interim Land Use Department director.

“It was just crazy,” Gundrey said. “They sent me a letter to tear everything down in six days. They should have done this a month ago.”

Gundrey directly contacted the mayor, who responded with a Tuesday email.



“For the moment, the decision by the State should give us the leeway we need to adjust our Oct. 31 provision,” Webber wrote to Gundrey. “Of course, we can’t do it with a snap of our fingers, but we’ll make it happen.”

Webber said after Kluck sent out the Monday letter, “we had a meeting about it. We huddled.” The outdoor dining provision from June 2020 was tied to the New Mexico Alcohol Beverage Control Division offering temporary outdoor liquor licenses. The state and city temporary licenses and permits first expired Oct. 31, 2020, and were extended to April 30 and again to Oct. 31.

Webber and other jurisdictions contacted Alcohol Beverage Control on Monday, and on Tuesday the agency sent out a letter extending the outdoor liquor program to April 30.

Outdoor dining on parking lots, street parking spaces and sidewalks has gained popularity, and the mayor said he sees long-term potential. But that involves zoning, determining restroom requirements, sidewalk rights of way, removing parking spaces and other matters — plus getting a permanent decision from Alcohol Beverage Control.

“What was originally an emergency measure has turned into a feature that people enjoy and adds fun to the Santa Fe dining scene,” Webber said. “How do we convert an emergency into an opportunity? What I would like to do is sit down with the restaurant association and restaurants and get a plan going to make this an ongoing feature.”

Will there be an appetite for outdoor dining in winter? Plenty of people still insist on eating outside, and Gundrey does not see this winter being any different than last, with diners taking the outdoor option.

“I was shocked at the people eating outdoors in the freezing weather,” Gundrey said.

(18) comments

Charles LaCalle

I feel bad for those restaurants who got the letter from Jason Kluck to tear down their outdoor dining. That is indeed "crazy" as this restaurant owner states. Our neighborhood has its own Jason Kluck story.

Jason Kluck also recently sent our neighborhood a letter stating that our access easement, which our entire neighborhood compound previously considered a private drive (and in fact all our surveys say that as well), is now classified as part of the public street frontage. No one can understand how he came to that rationale or why he suddenly became obsessed with our easement. We had to install security systems, as Director Kluck's new rule meant that anyone from the street could enter our parking and yards. It was hugely stressful for everyone.

I don't understand what Jason Kluck is doing at Land Use, but his policies are having disastrous impacts on Santa Fe.

Khal Spencer

Someone in the city government should have gotten their act together rather than sending out a "six days or else" memo. Who runs Santa Fe, the Marx Brothers?

Suzanne Romero

So outdoor dining caught your attention because the New Mexican, the almighty newspaper of all newspapers felt it was newsworthy. But what they forgot to tell is they posted an article about ANOTHER ETHICS COMPLAINT AGAINST Mayor Alan Webber and then pulled it down. WHY?

Is the New Mexican trying to bias its coverage to help Alan Webber?

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

Paul DeDomenico

Outdoors dining should become permanent downtown like it is in Europe. It enhances the charm of the city.

Richard Reinders

This whole exercise was a reminder of who is in control, you open or close because the Mayor/Gov says so.

Philip Taccetta

[thumbdown]

Marlow Morrison

This is for restaurant owners who feel access to outdoor dining increases business. I haven’t heard of an increase in Pedestrians being hit by cars because there’s not enough access the sidewalks. Let them have it, the restaurants have suffered enough in this pandemic.

Santiago Filamino

Classic flip flop by the deeply entrenched city bureaucracy! Common sense?! That was thrown out the door in 1610 or so??

Skye Goodrich

Burr. I like eating inside in the winter.

Stefanie Beninato

Yeah--you know sidewalk rights of way for residents who are pedestrians and who want to be in downtown. We do not need tourists lingering over tables just so they don't have to wear a mask and servers interfering with safe access over the sidewalks--not the small partitions on each sidewalk further narrowing any use of the sidewalk such as at the Plaza Cafe, Thunderbird, Tres Colores and others. And perhaps our town does not look so well with the piled up tables and chairs when not in use and the obvious dirty streets (food debris ground into the pavement) where the tables are set up.

mark Coble

Follow common sense? No, not hardly. What is covid survival rate for healthy people under 75? I know, don't ask! Obey! Live in fear! Embrace nanny state and see their common sense in action. Imagine trying to do business in this free market!

Sabine Strohem

@mark I'd say common sense is not YOUR forte.

Philip Taccetta

[thumbup]

Barry Rabkin

Not just about survival rate as important as that metric is. The other concern are the n number of hospital resources (ICU beds, doctors, nurses) that have been consumed by people getting infected by Covid-19. It's not about living in fear. It is about being intelligent enough to realize that Covid-19 is a global pandemic of a highly infectious virus and getting vaccinated.

Comment deleted.
Juana Lemus

So you think all sick people drive themselves to the hospital and use it as a long term parking lot? Lol

Philip Taccetta

[thumbdown]

Khal Spencer

[censored]

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