Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Was Little Italy’s al fresco dining experiment too popular for its own good?

Crowds showed up looking for romance, and most didn't wear masks

A couple enters Little Italy's carless restaurant zone, as crowds begin to gather.
A couple enters Little Italy's carless restaurant zone, as crowds begin to gather.

It was a good night for the restaurants, I have no doubt. On Saturday, June 13, Little Italy closed streets to car traffic and allowed restaurants to extend their seating out onto the asphalt.

The neighborhood was San Diego’s first to try a concept being tested in many cities across the United States, including New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington D.C. The reasoning behind the move is that the risk of airborne coronavirus transmission is thought to be far greater indoors than outside. So, by setting up more outdoor seating, diners who don’t feel ready to be seated within the confines of a restaurant, might venture out for al fresco table service.

Place

Bar One

1532 India Street, San Diego

For restaurants, it mitigates a significant problem. The social distancing guidelines required to re-open during a pandemic mean that most eateries can only seat about half their usual number of diners. So, while they may be open for business, they may not physically be able to do enough business to cover the costs of doing business. Being allowed to set up outdoor tables theoretically gives them room to serve more customers.

Take India Street restaurant Bar One, for example. By the looks of things, the tiny restaurant was able to seat more diners outside on this evening than it would be able to indoors under normal circumstances. Dozens gathered among outdoor tables, roped off from the street with the help of bar stools. And, like most of the neighborhood’s restaurants, potential diners gathered outside, just before dusk, awaiting tables.

Little Italy restaurant Bar One hosted dozens of diners on the sidewalk and street outside its doors.

And therein lies the problem. This closing of the streets dining event attracted crowds. Outside virtually every restaurant, clusters of San Diegans gathered, vying for outdoor tables. And by my count, the vast majority of people who came to Little Italy for al fresco dining were not wearing masks.

It feels counterintuitive to harp on this point, given the preceding week of protests that saw thousands of Black Lives Matter activists take to the streets demanding police reforms. But on this night in Little Italy, it seemed as though people had either forgotten the covid-19 outbreak is active, or had decided they do not care.

Prospective diners cluster outside a Little Italy restaurant, awaiting tables, while others fill the street around them.

Lines outside of restaurants, combined with hundreds of prospective diners crowding the streets, made it difficult, and at times impossible, to maintain the six-foot rule. People did what people tend to do when walking together in crowds: walk at different paces, stop to chat with friends, compress at bottlenecks, edge around one another.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental: I showed up, like everyone else, for the implicit romance of al fresco dining, under clear skies, in beautiful weather, in what reigns as the city’s best dining neighborhood. However, in a county bracing for a surge in coronavirus infections due to re-opening of businesses and beaches, and which is tracking at least one outbreak of cases connected to a local restaurant, the numbers of unmasked revelers in Little Italy on Saturday night was troubling.

The majority of diners who came to Little Italy for al fresco dining neglected to cover their faces.

Word is, Little Italy plans to try this again on June 20, and I would expect similar, if not greater crowds to attend. But I think it’s fair to question whether the mitigated risk of outdoor dining is compromised by the sheer volumes of people taking to the streets. Perhaps if multiple neighborhoods opened streets to dining at the same time, the population would be better distributed. Or if restaurants were restricted to reservations only, fewer diners would cluster outside restaurants in search of a table.

For those who do plan to attend future street closings, I would suggest reservations are an must, and to be explicit about wishing to dine outdoors. Everybody wants to eat outside, but the restaurants are still seating guests in their dining rooms, and it seems pointless to me to brave the crowds in the street, only to dine indoors.

And if you’re concerned about the risk of covid-19, avoid Little Italy’s outdoor dining experiment altogether. Counting on fellow San Diegans to limit the spread of the virus doesn’t feel realistic. And restaurants open in San Diego are more than happy to serve you take-out.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Dress up with cork wedges from Aerosoles and a necklace from Pier 1

“For three months, I existed only on yoga pants and sweatpants.”
A couple enters Little Italy's carless restaurant zone, as crowds begin to gather.
A couple enters Little Italy's carless restaurant zone, as crowds begin to gather.

It was a good night for the restaurants, I have no doubt. On Saturday, June 13, Little Italy closed streets to car traffic and allowed restaurants to extend their seating out onto the asphalt.

The neighborhood was San Diego’s first to try a concept being tested in many cities across the United States, including New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington D.C. The reasoning behind the move is that the risk of airborne coronavirus transmission is thought to be far greater indoors than outside. So, by setting up more outdoor seating, diners who don’t feel ready to be seated within the confines of a restaurant, might venture out for al fresco table service.

Place

Bar One

1532 India Street, San Diego

For restaurants, it mitigates a significant problem. The social distancing guidelines required to re-open during a pandemic mean that most eateries can only seat about half their usual number of diners. So, while they may be open for business, they may not physically be able to do enough business to cover the costs of doing business. Being allowed to set up outdoor tables theoretically gives them room to serve more customers.

Take India Street restaurant Bar One, for example. By the looks of things, the tiny restaurant was able to seat more diners outside on this evening than it would be able to indoors under normal circumstances. Dozens gathered among outdoor tables, roped off from the street with the help of bar stools. And, like most of the neighborhood’s restaurants, potential diners gathered outside, just before dusk, awaiting tables.

Little Italy restaurant Bar One hosted dozens of diners on the sidewalk and street outside its doors.

And therein lies the problem. This closing of the streets dining event attracted crowds. Outside virtually every restaurant, clusters of San Diegans gathered, vying for outdoor tables. And by my count, the vast majority of people who came to Little Italy for al fresco dining were not wearing masks.

It feels counterintuitive to harp on this point, given the preceding week of protests that saw thousands of Black Lives Matter activists take to the streets demanding police reforms. But on this night in Little Italy, it seemed as though people had either forgotten the covid-19 outbreak is active, or had decided they do not care.

Prospective diners cluster outside a Little Italy restaurant, awaiting tables, while others fill the street around them.

Lines outside of restaurants, combined with hundreds of prospective diners crowding the streets, made it difficult, and at times impossible, to maintain the six-foot rule. People did what people tend to do when walking together in crowds: walk at different paces, stop to chat with friends, compress at bottlenecks, edge around one another.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental: I showed up, like everyone else, for the implicit romance of al fresco dining, under clear skies, in beautiful weather, in what reigns as the city’s best dining neighborhood. However, in a county bracing for a surge in coronavirus infections due to re-opening of businesses and beaches, and which is tracking at least one outbreak of cases connected to a local restaurant, the numbers of unmasked revelers in Little Italy on Saturday night was troubling.

The majority of diners who came to Little Italy for al fresco dining neglected to cover their faces.

Word is, Little Italy plans to try this again on June 20, and I would expect similar, if not greater crowds to attend. But I think it’s fair to question whether the mitigated risk of outdoor dining is compromised by the sheer volumes of people taking to the streets. Perhaps if multiple neighborhoods opened streets to dining at the same time, the population would be better distributed. Or if restaurants were restricted to reservations only, fewer diners would cluster outside restaurants in search of a table.

For those who do plan to attend future street closings, I would suggest reservations are an must, and to be explicit about wishing to dine outdoors. Everybody wants to eat outside, but the restaurants are still seating guests in their dining rooms, and it seems pointless to me to brave the crowds in the street, only to dine indoors.

And if you’re concerned about the risk of covid-19, avoid Little Italy’s outdoor dining experiment altogether. Counting on fellow San Diegans to limit the spread of the virus doesn’t feel realistic. And restaurants open in San Diego are more than happy to serve you take-out.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Bobbi and Mark sleep above the lions in Alpine

Lions Tigers & Bears is not a zoo
Next Article

Waiter at La Jolla's Tapenade, toilet cleaner at Spanky's

San Diego's candy salesman, transient nurse, ups and downs of fishing
Comments
7

So, this was not a restaurant review, it's a scolding for not wearing masks.

June 15, 2020

And a much needed scolding at that! The first surge ain’t over in California, folks! Wearing a mask is absolutely the right, ethical, rational thing to do. Going without one is foolish and wildly inconsiderate of the common good.

June 15, 2020

Look at the fluctuation of faces to the 6 female faces that are most visual in view: only 2 with smiles, as 1 in-between those two broke the 'string' of the smiling. The 3 females furthest to the right hand side having the most fluctuation to debatable interpretation.; but NOT of smiling. But smiling is much within the operating costs of supporting.

June 16, 2020

As far as the masks... to quote a recent article I read. "The pandemic isn't over, but Americans are over it." Most of us anyway.

June 15, 2020

The 6/17 tv media speaking, from the City's change -- of car/foot traffic on FIFTH STREET, will prove of lesser aggression on the road. Via reduction of aggression on that road, during such time. THIS WILL FURTHER PROVE THE PROBLEM OF CARS & DRIVERS OF CARS, in society. In insecurity of humans, in why for so the ongoing decades had to feel more secure in their cars. Feeling better to do aggression at/on Bikes & selected Pedestrians, The next pattern the U.S. needs to follow of Europe, after having more roads sharing its space to dining ---- is lesser cars on the roads.

June 17, 2020

Little Italy is the city’s best dining neighborhood? Overpriced bad Italian food is really the best we can do?

June 19, 2020

There's NO saurkrauts there; its not such designated turf. (only the City's permit[ting] can ruin the consistency)

June 19, 2020

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close