Escondido, CA
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Restaurants winterize to stay open

Now that the County has moved into the Purple Tier’s updated COVID-19 restrictions as of Saturday, November 14, restaurants along Grand Avenue and elsewhere in town are scrambling to come up with ways to serve out-of-doors in the upcoming winter months and their cold and wet days.

According to Amber V. Tarrac, deputy director of economic development for the City of Escondido, “The City continues to support our local businesses with resources and tools during this difficult time.” She added, “The City team stands ready to continue to assist business owners with expanding their operations outdoors and temporary outdoor fencing.” Further down in this article you’ll find information about the city’s Business Recovery Strategy Permit and website.”

Alex MacLachlan, president of the Downtown Business Association commented on what the restaurateurs face: “The challenge is we are going into our cold time of year and the state regulations say your outdoor dining space needs to be open on three sides and you can’t have heaters inside tents. So if you have tents set up, you have to let the cold in and your options to make that space more comfortable for customers is very limited. I’ve had conversations with city management recently about helping provide outdoor heating sources for downtown businesses but much of that funding is held up in Congress with no agreement on COVID relief legislation.

Bob & Kate Carpenter of Sunny Side Kitchen, commented, “Well, thankfully San Diego weather is pretty awesome most of the time. We are lucky that our front sidewalk (where we have seating for 18) gets a lot of sun in the morning and our seats behind the restaurant (in the parking lot, seating for 18) get a good amount of sun in the afternoon. Also, we are not open at night. So it comes down to just a few days where it’s just too cold to sit outside and we are hoping people will continue the trend of take-out and delivery.”

Louisa Magoon, owner of The Grand Tea Room, told The Times-Advocate: “While I’m glad we at least get to serve people outside as opposed to the first lockdown when we could only do take out, I am concerned about serving outside when it’s cold.  Obviously, we’re much more fortunate than other places with colder weather, but it can still get quite chilly outside in the winter.”

She noted that just this morning she got a call from a woman asking about her reservation in mid-December. “She asked if we were going to be open, I said yes but probably only for outside seating.  She asked if I thought it would be cold then.  I told her I had no idea but that we were planning on having canopy covering and heaters for our guests and are telling people to dress warm. A lot of my clientele are older ladies and as an ‘older lady’ myself, I get cold easily. We’re doing our best to plan for being closed to inside dining beyond the three week requirement we’re in now.”

Mrs. Magoon is not optimistic about exiting from Tier Purple any time soon. She took some of the tips that the city provides for winterizing businesses (see below.) “The requirement to have electric and gas fueled heaters at least 10 feet from the canopies doesn’t help much.  We did that last Saturday and you can’t even feel the heat from that far away. Where we use heaters, we won’t have canopies up. The other issue for me is that people come to my tea room for the ambiance as well as our delicious food. The tea room is pretty and that’s a draw for my customers but we make it as nice as we can outside with our beautiful china, roses, lace tablecloths and music so they do get some of the experience of the tea room. It’s all trial and error at this point but – at least we can seat people outside so we have to look at the positive side of all this.”

“Well, it’s definitely been frustrating,” said Raymond J. Alto, one of the owners of La Tapatia, one of Escondido’s oldest restaurants. “Thank goodness we have a patio. I think heaters are definitely a necessity. We also installed plastic barriers so we can seat more people on the patio and have COVID privacy. We have been very fortunate to have such a good customer base. Being an Escondido Landmark we have given residents that feeling of a second home that they have always been accustomed to. People are very understanding and we thank them for their generosity through these difficult times.”

The Times-Advocate also spoke to Aaron from Plan 9 Alehouse, another Grand Avenue fixture: “Obviously, this is brutal time for every small business but especially restaurants being forced to serve outdoors,” he said. “We usually have great weather, but there’s a few weeks where it is unbearable to dine outdoors. We have been trying to make it work with canopies and outdoor heaters.”

Jeanette McBrearty, owner of The Flying Toad, another Grand Avenue eatery, commented, “Well we’ve purchased several heaters, reinforced the outdoor canopy with plastic tarps on the west side to decrease wind, purchased fleece throws for our guests, which we wash and sanitize after every use and added fire columns to the sidewalk for ambiance.” They are also offering free hot apple cider.  McBrearty added, “We are very thankful being a San Diego based business and having decent weather year around. With a few simple changes we can continue to operate. Our hearts go out to those business further North and across our country that don’t have that luxury.”


City Resources

Safety Tips to Winterize Outdoor Dining and Retail Spaces

Safety first during the winter season!  Find safety tips for winterizing your outdoor dining and retail spaces and Fire Department contact info here.  We are happy to review your outdoor winter plans for free. 


Want to operate your business outdoors? The City is here to help!

The City recognizes the impact of COVID-19 restrictions limiting indoor operations, and we are here to help.  The City’s Business Recovery Strategy encourages outdoor dining and retail operations, more information can be found here.

Moving your business outdoors and need temporary fencing? The City can help with that too! 

Submit your fencing request with your business information, your contact information, and the number of feet of fencing you need to  Fencing will be made available for businesses to pick up at the City’s Public Works yard, while supplies last.  Quantities limited!   

Purple Tier – What does this mean for businesses and the community?

– Restaurants (including bars, breweries, and distilleries where a meal is provided), wineries, places of worship, museums, gyms, and zoos can operate outdoors only.

  Bars, breweries, and distilleries where no meal is provided are closed.

-Retail establishments and shopping centers can operate at 25% indoors.

– Personal care services, salons, and barbershops may operate indoors with modifications.

– K-12 schools must use distance learning if they’re not already open for in-person instruction.

– Parks, playgrounds, and outdoor recreational facilities remain open.

– A maximum of 3 households may gather.

– Indoor recreational programs must operate outside or be cancelled.

– The East Valley Community Center will close to the public.

– The Escondido Public library will operate at 25% capacity.

– City staff stand ready to assist local businesses with moving their operations outdoors if they haven’t already done so. If you hear of a local business that needs temporary fencing for outdoor operations or has other needs, please direct questions to Amber Tarrac at or 760-839-4587.

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