PISMO BEACH, Calif. - Just six weeks after opening, business is already cooking at Beachin' Biscuits in Pismo Beach.
"The dining experience was really nice," said customer Jermane Roberts. "They were really friendly. They were very helpful. It's a clean, nice establishment. The food was good. It's reasonably priced."
Located at the busy corner of Price and Main streets, the small restaurant specializes in breakfast dishes.
While sales have been strong, co-owner Gina Mayo believes they could be even better.
"We can only seat about 10 people inside, so it's just becoming ever so difficult," said Mayo.
She added customers frequently walk in, but quickly leave when all seating is occupied.
"It's been very detrimental to our business because if larger families come in, it's impossible," Mayo said. "The busier we get, and we're increasingly busier every weekend, so it is difficult."
Mayo said the plan was to have the restaurant provide outdoor patio seating along Price Street.
The extra space would provide added seating and enhance the overall dining experience.
"You want Pismo Beach and Price Street, they want this to be restaurant row, so you want tables, umbrellas and people out here. I think it only adds to the vibrance of the streetscape," said Mayo.
However, during the months proceeding the restaurant's opening, owners discovered an issue with their idea.
"When we applied for our beer and wine license, we were notified that the patio was not a usable space and that there was an assessment that went with the patio," said Mayo.
The assessment, according to Pismo Beach Management Services Director Jorge Garcia, is a requirement by municipal code.
"For every 75 square feet, one parking space made available and that can be provided onsite through a parking-in-lieu fee of $36,000 per space," said Garcia.
With the restaurant's plan for the patio measuring over 75 feet, they would need two spaces, bringing the fee up to $72,000.
"Right now, we're following our municipal code and the standards that the City Council adopted," Garcia said. "That's not something that the city staff can waive, or the planning commission can waive, so at this point, we want to make sure we're following all the rules and regulations that are established by the City Council for everyone to follow."
Mayo pointed out the fee is an extraordinary large sum of money, especially considering the restaurant is only open until 12:30 p.m. daily.
"The assessment was an amount that is just not conducive for a small business," said Mayo.
Garcia said the fee was in line with other communities and stressed how important parking is to the tourist town.
"Parking in a priority in the downtown for our residents, our visitors and for the City Council," Garcia said, "It was the number two priority in the council goal setting sessions that was recently adopted, so we're very sensitive parking needs."
Mayo added prior businesses at the location included outdoor seating, and even including a picture of the prior business on a petition the restaurant is currently collecting signatures for in an effort to persuade City Council to resolve the issue.
"The unfortunate thing is every coffee shop prior to use, they did use this as a patio where people ate and drank," said Mayo. "Not everybody has had to pay this assessment fee and there has been different types of exclusions and different grandfathering, so that's where I'm coming from. I just want the same fairness extended to Beachin' Biscuits."
However, according to the City, every business in Pismo Beach has to abide by the same rules.
"There were other businesses that used that space illegally and the city did do code enforcement on those businesses, so it's not something that we allow," said Garcia. "Our goal is to always be a business friendly community, where business thrives. It's an important priority for City Council and for city staff and the way to do that in a fair and consistent way is to be exactly that, fair and consistent."
He added Beachin' Biscuits actually doesn't have to pay the $72,000 fee in order to comply with the requirements.
"The goal is not compensation for the city," said Garcia. "The goal is to provide parking for the community and the patrons for the business. They can provide parking through other means, whether that's onsite or through a business arrangement with another business that has excess parking."
However, Mayo countered, those options are non-existent.
She said one area business offered spaces, but it was farther than the 300 feet needed to be compliant.
The restaurant also asked the City if it could give up its private spaces for employees and purchase city parking passes, but was declined.
There is a petition the restaurant is having people sign in an effort to persuade City leaders to come to an resolution.
"It is an outcry from the public," said Mayo. "We did not post or share anything on Facebook. That was done by our customers, so it's really the customers, the citizens of Pismo, Shell, A.G., that are really pushing for this. There has been an incredible amount of support for this little restaurant, which really holds close to my heart."
Garcia emphasized the City is simply going by regulations established by City Council and that Pismo Beach remains committed to all of its businesses.
"Our goal is to always be a business friendly community, where business thrives," said Garcia. "It's an important priority for City Council and for city staff and the way to do that in a fair and consistent way is to be exactly that, fair and consistent."
As of now, ownership isn't sure what it will ultimately do, but still believes the situation will work out.
"We are going to have to weigh our options and that's unfortunate because we are paying taxes too to this city, so we're trying to give back. We want to give back and I know the city has it's goals too, so hopefully those goals can meet in the middle," said Mayo. "I am working with the city and I am hopeful and optimistic we can come to an agreeable resolution."