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SLO County allows outdoor dining, sans waiter

Luna Red
Customers have the option of pation seating when eating their to-go food at downtown SLO restaurant Luna Red.

SLO County has released updated guidelines for restaurants, once again allowing outdoor dining—but there’s a catch.

At SLO County restaurants that have outdoor areas, such a parklet or patio, customers are able to enjoy their meal at a table. But Isabella Cartoni with Luna Red in downtown SLO said it won’t be the typical dining experience, since restaurants can still only offer take-out. 

“So we don’t have servers, like how it used to be...we still are fully abiding by the governor’s mandates," Cartoni said. "But our patio is still open to enjoy that take-away food.”

According to the county's public health department, alcohol is also not allowed to be consumed in the outdoor dining areas for now, and restaurants must adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, like keeping guests who sit outside spaced apart. 

“Our staff is instructed to sanitize tables after guests enjoy their meal with us," Cartoni said.

Owner of Hoagies in SLO and Pismo Beach, Nick Steve, said when he wasn't allowed to offer the patio option, some customers would take their take-out orders outside to eat nearby at a bench.

“Across the street—I have no way to regulate that," Steve said. "Like who has been there, who is sitting there...so it’s probably safer to sit on someone's patio because you have employees able to take care of it and clean it and sanitize it.”

Steve said without allowing the patio as an option, areas nearby start filling with trash.

“We were having trash issues in Pismo when it was first take-out only," Steve said. "The city was overwhelmed with trash. When you take care of it yourself within the restaurant, that helps us regulate the trash on the beach, on the streets.”

The county said the updated guidelines are subject to change at any time. But Cartoni said she won't be surprised if and when that happens. 

“To be honest our team has been really wonderful, they have gotten to the point where they are pretty much experts at changing this much,” Cartoni said. 

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.