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Chula Vista business owner says city’s order to remove outdoor dining a ‘slap in the face’


The owner of a popular Chula Vista brewery filed a complaint with the city Tuesday alleging it unfairly demanded the business remove its outdoor dining space, while other businesses continue to operate parklets in the area.

Timothy Parker, owner of Chula Vista Brewery, broke down the dining structure that extended about three parking spots on Third Avenue on Monday morning. Parker received a letter Friday from the city’s Economic Development Department notifying him staff would remove the structure by Aug. 9.

“Emotionally, it’s crushing, because I think I’m doing everything right, but the city hits me with a bombshell,” Parker said.

Last month, the city of Chula Vista approved a new initiative allowing businesses to keep their COVID-19 outdoor dining spaces as long as they improve or replace them with permitted and ADA compliant structures.

The city’s initiative laid out guidelines for the location of the outdoor dining spaces, such as spaces that are in front of their business or an adjacent business with written consent to the city. Businesses have the option of building parklets, which are located on the road where cars would normally park, and sidewalk cafes — where businesses set tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Businesses are eligible for reimbursements through July 30, 2022.

Parker said he did not apply for the city’s initiative because he was told by city staff that he was not eligible unless the restaurant next door gave him permission to use the parking spaces in front of the business.

The initiative also set aside funding to reimburse business owners for the cost of designing, permitting and building the parklets with a grant of up to $15,000. There is also a maximum $4,000 grant for businesses that install sidewalk cafes.

The brewery owner was one of the first in the area to apply for a city permit last year to build an outdoor dining space to open up more outdoor seating during the pandemic, he said. Parker said he spent between $10,000 to $15,000 on his parklet, he said, which up until recently would fill with customers on the weekends.

Directly outside the brewery is a planting strip that runs along the sidewalk and road. It is filled with small plants and trees, and takes up what would be parking spaces in front of the business. Because the planting strip is in the way, Parker obtained city permits last year to build the outdoor dining space along three parking spaces that extend to the restaurant next door.

Chula Vista Brewery along Third Avenue does not have parking spaces directly in front of the establishment because there is a planting strip.

(Andrea Lopez-Villafaña/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Parker received a notice last month from the city that explained he would have to remove the parklet, but it did not mention any issues with permits or its construction, he said.

The brewery owner said he reached out to Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas and city staff to identify a possible alternative, but nothing happened.

He then received another letter on Friday that said city staff would remove the structure by the end of the day Monday.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he said.

Parker held a press conference inside the brewery Tuesday with his attorney and Shane Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, to announce the complaint, and intent to file a lawsuit if the city does allow Parker to rebuild his parklet.

“What we have here is a business practice that is unfair to to Mr. Parker,” said San Diego attorney Cliff Dover, who filed the complaint on behalf of Parker. “We want answers as to why Mr. Parker’s business has been treated in this manner. He is going to loose an untold amount of money as a result of what has occurred.”

The city of Chula Vista would not comment on the specifics of Parker’s situation, a city spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“In general, through a variety of programs, the city has endeavored to give business owners throughout the city the support they need to allow them to continue to conduct their businesses in a safe a successful manner,” said Anne Steinberger, marketing and communications manager for the city. “The ongoing program to allow outdoor operations in the public right of way along Third Avenue is an example of this.”

The mayor said she was aware of the situation, but would not comment on the specifics because of the complaint.

“I think it’s really unfortunate that he’s taken this tactic because we are trying to find a solution for him,” Salas said.

Harris called on the city of Chula Vista to reopen Parker’s parklet space, and emphasized the negative impact that the pandemic had on small businesses, especially businesses owned by people of color.

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