LA’s Covid-era al fresco dining rules could last

City Council may make permanent a measure that has cut red tape on permits, approvals

Outdoor dining in Santa Monica (Getty)
Outdoor dining in Santa Monica (Getty)

Los Angeles’ Covid-era regulations that cleared the way for a burst of outdoor dining establishments may become a permanent fixture.

The City Council voted to study a permanent al fresco dining scheme that cuts the red tape on permits and approvals while also complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The vote directed city staff to report on ways to transition all existing outdoor dining arrangements into permanent sidewalk dining locations.

The City Council easily adopted a temporary outdoor dining measure last spring as indoor dining shut. But creating a permanent regulatory framework appears more complicated.

Wednesday’s vote directed several agencies to present recommendations for a measure, including the Department of Building and Safety, Department of City Planning, and the Fire Department.

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Mayor Eric Garcetti’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year includes $2 million in grants for restaurants in low-income areas to help build permanent outdoor dining accommodations. And this week, L.A. County awarded 132 restaurants grants of up to $3,500 each to help them recover from the pandemic.

Outdoor and sidewalk dining in cities across the country have helped keep restaurants afloat through the pandemic. In L.A. County, their popularity was seen last fall when restaurants fiercely objected to the suspension of outdoor dining as a second wave of the virus swept the region.

Some local restaurant owners refused to stop serving customers and the city of Pasadena broke with L.A. County’s health department by allowing restaurants to continue the practice.

New York City adopted a similar outdoor dining program early in the pandemic, and is also creating a permanent measure. Some restaurants have struggled to keep up with evolving regulations, however.

[LADN] — Dennis Lynch