Just like a lot of people, I’m waiting around to see what the next phase of the pandemic brings. I’m in California, and have been subject to its strict measures, all held up by Los Angeles County. I’m getting the feeling lots of places are more opened up than we are.
For the time being, living in a high-traffic, internationally populated area makes strict measures seem justified. As the state of affairs evolves, I have been watching for signs of how the parking industry has been affected. And there are a lot of signs.
One local restaurant offered its parking lot for drive-in dining. They converted the patio for walk-up ordering and pick up, and customers were encouraged to eat in the parking area.
The parking lot fits about 12. We first thought we could order from our car and have the food brought out to us, but there were no carhops in sight.
This was the type of parking lot re-invention I imagined early on. In fact, the first time we took the leap to eat out, we went to an In-n-Out drive through and were provided with placemats for our laps. This is something the restaurant already gives people who plan to eat in their cars. If I were a restaurant owner or valet operator right now, I’d be hanging twinkle lights and playing good music to encourage patrons to pull in and eat up.
Where else but the parking lot is there room to keep everybody separate? And where better than the car to protect personal airspace in public venues?
Another pandemic-related change to parking is a new Temporary Catering Authorization option – this one in California - that allows restaurants and bars to “serve cocktails and food on adjacent sidewalks, parking lots and in city streets.” The plan includes restrictions, licenses, authorizations and a slew of conditions.
This is a development driven by California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control and it could “create large outdoor bars and dining areas serviced by food trucks and pop-ups.”
I’m imagining a Wild West sort of tailgating frat party, but I’m sure somebody’s thinking about crowd control. Again, parking areas are the open space needed for the restaurant industry to operate in some profitable capacity.
Finally, there’s been a lot of “curbside” pick up, try on, order here all around town. Stores are opening, but I imagine curbside will continue to be a desired service. I bought my daughter new tennis shoes at a place that put a large amount of its inventory on the sidewalk in front of the store.
We parked and she tried on shoes from the comfort of our own vehicle. Anything she tried on went on a separated table and got swiped with a Clorox wipe. About 20 minutes later I made a touchless payment and we were off. She got some new kicks she needed badly.
I’m still waiting for drive-in theaters to start popping up. Of all the things we miss – school, our friends, eating in a restaurant – we could really use an escape like going out for a movie.