City of San Rafael hosts Dining Under the Lights to bring traffic back to local restaurants


Dylan Carson

Expanded outdoor seating for customers dining at local restaurants such as Crepevine and State Room.

Every Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., local restaurants on 4th St. take part in Dining Under the Lights, an outdoor seating event hosted by the city of San Rafael. This event emerged this June in response to the detrimental effects of COVID-19 safety regulations on restaurants. San Rafael wants to bring life back to local businesses by expanding outdoor seating and instituting new COVID-19 safety policies. 

Tables and live music set up on 4th St. for customers dining at Los Moles.

Many local restaurants are excited to be able to serve more customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Whipper Snapper, a local restaurant on 4th St., is very supportive of this new event. “[Dining Under the Lights] impacted my business really greatly, it’s really helped a lot,” Bill Higgins, owner of Whipper Snapper, said.

The closed street allows local restaurants to recover after being hit hard financially. “I’m probably down … at least 50, maybe 60 percent of my revenue pre-COVID and, I think there are other restaurants and institutions that are down even more than that,” Higgins said. 

The event provides a momentary solution to the lack of inside seating which has caused restaurants to lose a large quantity of their usual business. “We are used to a lot of people dining inside the restaurant … that has pretty much died down completely,” Elias Haddad, owner of Julie’s Hummus Bar and Grill, said.  

A sign hanging at the start of the Dining Under the Lights event reminding customers to wear a mask.

To protect the staff and customers’ safety while taking part in Dining Under the Lights, local restaurants are following guidelines set by the Marin County Health Department.  “My employees wear masks. We ask everybody that comes into the restaurant even if you’re dining outside, you have to have a mask on,” Higgins said. 

Other rules mandated by the county include that tables must be distanced at least six feet apart, employees must wear masks at all times, and indoor dining is prohibited. “ I’d say … around 90, 95 percent of people are [following the medical guidelines] … My employees are very diligent about it.” Higgins said. 

Dining Under the Lights will take place through October, allowing local restaurants affected by COVID-19 to continue to serve their customers and stay in business.