Visalia won’t leave businesses out in the cold

City of Visalia extends temporary conditional use permits allowing businesses to use space in public right of way for outdoor seating, operations

VISALIA – Many restaurants around Tulare County are relying on outdoor dining to keep their businesses afloat. Since the pandemic doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, the Visalia city council voted to extend existing temporary permits for businesses which allow for use of public right of way and private property for outdoor seating.

Back in July, the council began issuing temporary conditional use permits (TCUPs) that allowed the use of public right of ways and they also waived the required fees. That came in response to state and local public health orders that required businesses to modify their establishments to restrict the transmission of COVID-19 by encouraging social distancing and decreasing indoor interactions. Those permits allowed some restaurants to use streets and sidewalks for outdoor seating. Both public right of way and private property TCUPs were originally issued to run for six months, but on Nov. 13 they were extended until the local state of emergency due to COVID-19 ends.

“It should be noted that the regulation is not limited to outdoor dining uses and was prepared with the intention of being available to any business that might be able to safely and effectively utilize this process to temporarily modify operations for outdoor service,” a city staff report stated.

Any temporary modifications in the street must be built and maintained in a manner to allow drainage during storm events and may not block the curb and gutters. The council also added specific conditions related to the use of all heating and cooking equipment when businesses are operating under a tent or structure. According to the staff report, all heating and cooking equipment must be installed in accordance with the California Mechanical Code; propane heaters will not be permitted to operate within structures, including tents; and any propane tanks used as fuel source for equipment must be located outside of the tent.

The City will review the location and spacing of all heating equipment. Any heaters installed in the public right of way must be located in a manner to prevent injury to pedestrians while being located in a manner to provide sufficient space in the right of way for pedestrian travel.

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