Diners eat outside between Opa and Stadium Pub on a closed Lincoln Ave. in downtown Walnut Creek, Calif., on Friday, June 12, 2021. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

El Cerrito’s City Council approved a temporary extension Tuesday of the city’s current outdoor dining program, enabling city officials to develop a set of permanent regulations.

The council voted unanimously to adopt the extension, which runs through Dec. 5, 2024. It would also be pre-empted if the city adopts a permanent outdoor dining program before then, according to city officials.

The council originally adopted the outdoor dining and retail program in July 2020 in an effort to help local businesses while indoor dining and shopping were prohibited or limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That ordinance was to remain in place until the city’s local emergency ended. The council voted Sept. 20, 2022, to let the local emergency expire on Dec. 31, 2022.

The council subsequently approved a 45-day temporary extension of the outdoor dining and retail program on Dec. 6, with the program set to expire Jan. 20. Tuesday’s vote allowed the city to extend the temporary program’s deadline for up to 22 months and 15 days.

“We had intended for it to be temporary just to fill the needs of businesses during the pandemic,” city planning manager Sean Moss said of outdoor dining. “The program has been very successful and there are elements that we definitely want to continue.”

As part of its approval of the extension, the council voted to include a statement encouraging businesses with outdoor dining and sales permits to utilize electric heating elements rather than those powered by propane after encouragement from the city’s Environmental Quality Committee.

City officials did not give an estimate on how long it may take to develop a set of permanent outdoor dining regulations.