Inspections coming for safety protocols, permits at business patios

SAN DIEGO – Thousands of outdoor patios have gone up in the past nine months for businesses amid the pandemic — San Diego Fire Department believes more than half of them do not have permits, or the correct permits.

“I’ve got 22 inspectors now,” said Fire Marshal Doug Perry, of the team that will be inspecting sites. “Starting Feb. 1, it will be our primary and only function. It’s going to be hard on the inspectors because we are the fire department. We like to be liked and now we are going out as the enforcers.”

The inspectors plan to stop by every single San Diego business with a patio during the month of February. Their first objective will be to educate businesses that don’t have permits, or have permits for a patio but not a permit for some of the things in the space, such as tents or heaters.

Many of the outdoor extensions belong to restaurants, which are not currently allowed to offer any any form of in-person dining. But the City of San Diego says it’s being proactive about the many outdoor set-ups still erected around town, so everything is up to code when restaurants get the green light. The rules can be tricky to navigate.

“If you have a structure up, or you’re using a tent, you can’t have walls that are connecting,” Perry explained. “They have to be opposite each other so you have air flow. We’ll be looking at that. We’ll be making sure any tent or structure doesn’t have LP heaters, which stand 6 to 7 feet tall.”

Perry said they will give business owners a few weeks to make corrections but if they don’t come up to standards, they could face a cease and desist order.