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San Jose Al Fresco - Frequently Asked Questions

Post Date:06/16/2020 6:00 PM

If you have a ground-floor retail store or restaurant - these Q&As might help you decide how to take advantage of San Jose Al Fresco!

 I thought the new County order allows outdoor dining. So what’s this all about? 

This allows restaurants and foodservice business not previously permitted for outdoor dining to do so, quickly, free and for a limited time. It allows outdoor seating on sidewalks for other kinds of businesses. We are also allowing foodservice and non-food-related businesses to conduct their operations in private parking lots. Check out the order here. 

What kind of business can apply to use adjacent outdoor space? 

For sidewalk dining or seating: Any ground floor business that is currently allowed to operate or that will be allowed to operate under the new County health order, subject to any additional city, state and/or federal limitations or requirements. Broadly, this includes restaurants, cafes, other food establishments, all retail, pet grooming, schools and childcare businesses among many others. Check the Santa Clara County public health website for details. and the County restaurant reopening guidance 

On a paved, private parking lot: Any business classified under the categories listed below in Table 20-90 of the City of San Jose’s Zoning Code and that is currently allowed to operate or that will be allowed to operate under the new County health order, subject to any additional city, state and/or federal limitations or requirements.

1. General Retail Education and Training 
2. Entertainment and Recreation, except Relocated Cardroom 
3. Food Services 
4. General Services 
5. Health and Veterinary Services, except Animal Grooming 
6. Offices and Financial Services 
7. Public, Quasi-Public and Assembly Uses 
8. Sale, Vehicle Parts only within the category of Vehicle Related Uses

What will getting this temporary access to outdoor space cost me? 

Application for this permission is completely free of charge, with no waiting time 

When do these new relaxed rules expire? 

December 31, 2020 or when we are no longer deemed to be in a local state of emergency, whichever occurs first.

Can I serve alcohol in my new outdoor dining space?

If your facility already has an outdoor space and you hold an ABC license to serve alcohol in the outside area, you can open service of food and alcohol in that area.  If you are expanding foodservice to the sidewalk or in a private parking lot, you currently can’t get the temporary ABC license for the additional area.

If you are licensed to serve alcohol indoors at your facility and want to temporarily expand food and alcohol service to a private parking lot and/or public sidewalk area, at this time ABC can’t issue the temporary catering license. This is an issue between the County and ABC, and we hope it will be resolved soon.

At this time, the following are permitted under our “al fresco” relaxation of City regulations: 

  1. Restaurants with existing ABC licenses covering both inside and exterior patio areas are allowed to provide food and alcohol service on their patio areas.
  2. Restaurants with ABC licenses for their indoor facility may continue to provide curb-side alcohol service, until the State and County are aligned and ABC can issue a Covid19 Temporary Catering Authorization permit.
  3. Restaurants with ABC licenses for indoors may register to open foodservice on an adjacent parking lot or sidewalk area, but may NOT serve alcohol on outdoor areas, until the State and County are aligned and ABC can issue a Covid19 Temporary Catering Authorization permit

All retail businesses allowed to open under the County Order that became effective June 5 may continue to register to conduct customer operations in parking lots and/or sidewalks, as initially described.

Does this temporary program mean that I can set up tables and chairs in the parking spaces, the bike lane or street in front of my business? 

No. The only areas that are covered in this phase of San Jose Al Fresco are public sidewalks and privately-owned paved lots. The City is considering additional opportunities for outdoor dining and other operations in streets, parking spaces, parks, plazas and paseos but that has not yet been implemented. 

What happens if I leave my tables and chairs out after the temporary rules expire? 

If you want to continue to have outdoor/sidewalk operation after the temporary rules expire, you will have to apply for a permit through the City’s regular process. 

I am a dog groomer, can I move a grooming station on to the sidewalk if I apply? 

Non-foodservice businesses can only utilize sidewalk space for seating/waiting purposes. Check the County Order and the guide to what types of businesses can re-open on June 5. 

I am a manicurist, and I could move my table outside, can I apply? 

No, because your business has not yet been allowed by the County to reopen. See the guide to what types of businesses can re-open on June 5. 

What if I already have outside seating for my café? 

You’re all set! Just be sure you are following the County’s Social Distancing Protocol and restaurant-specific guidelines for outdoor dining. 

What can the City do if my landlord doesn’t want to give permission to use their parking lot? 

It is entirely the landlord’s prerogative. 

I operate a food truck – if I get the owner’s permission, can I set up chairs and tables in a parking lot? 

No. Only bricks-and-mortar food establishments are covered under this emergency order. 

What if the area next to my store isn’t paved, it’s just dirt? 

The parking lot must be fully paved. 

How much of the parking lot can I use, and can I pack in as many tables as I want, since it’s outdoors? 

Your area of operations cannot extend farther than 125’ from the face of your building, take up no more than 50% of the available parking spaces, and be at least 50’ from any residential property. Your outdoor business area can not utilize existing ADA parking spaces or block any existing ADA-related improvements. 

Do I need to notify the residents around my business if I’m going to set-up outdoor dining in a private parking lot? 

The City’s registration process does not require you to notify surrounding residents, but we suggest that you do so out of courtesy to your neighbors. The City will respond to complaints received on businesses conducting outdoor operations outside of the parameters of the temporary rules. Reaching out your neighbors is likely to cut down or eliminate any complaints they might have. 

How long do I have to wait to find out if I am allowed to set up my stuff outside? 

Once you have completed the online registration form, you will receive a confirmation email, and you are ok to start outdoor operations and/or seating. 

How much of the sidewalk can I use? 

You must leave at least 4’ wide and 7’ high area clear for pedestrian access, and use only the area along your business frontage. The terms and conditions have all the details. 

What certification or documents are needed to apply? 

For sidewalk use, you must submit an updated Certificate of Insurance, naming City as additional insured. 

For parking lot, your application must include written permission from your landlord and a site diagram, along with proof of authorization from CA Alcohol Beverage Control to sell alcohol if you will be serving alcohol in your outdoor business area. 

If there is a curfew, must I close up my business outside when the curfew starts? 

Yes, you can’t be open during a curfew. If there is no curfew in effect, but your existing city permit allows you to serve past the time specified in these new temporary rules, you must cease outdoor service at the time in the Emergency Order – e.g., 10 pm.

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