SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — “We can start seeing a glimmer of hope of returning to a little bit of what we used to before,” Laurie Thomas, with Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said.

Outdoor dining is taking off in San Francisco, with more and more eating establishments building out patios as a part of the city’s shared spaces program.

It’s not just popular with the restaurants that have been struggling to stay open during this pandemic.

Those eating out say they are enjoying more Al Fresco options.

Outdoor dining park lots have exploded here on San Francisco’s Chestnut Street in the Marina.

On Thursday, many of the tabletops were filled with hungry customers.

Steiner at Chestnut is one of the streets now closed to traffic during much of the day under the city’s shared spaces program.

Some of the outdoor patios there are very elaborate, such as one with hanging heat chandeliers.

“We used to eat here all the time. We like it outside now all the little park lights and whatnot so we dine outside, it’s really nice,” one customer said.

The shared spaces program was born out of a COVID-related emergency declaration. The president of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association says it was an example of city agencies coming together to get things done.

The board of supervisors are voting next week to waive permit fees for things such as tables and chairs on the sidewalk until 2022.

The already free shared spaces permit that allow commercial activity in the parking spots expires on New Year’s Eve. There is a move to extend them.

But making them permanent is not without controversy even among merchants, since they take up valuable parking spots.

The manager of the shared spaces program says there is a strong appetite for them to become a long-term fixture in the public realm.