A Southern California lawmaker is pushing for a federal effort to preserve restaurants’ outdoor dining permissions, an option that’s proved popular during the pandemic.
Late last month Rep. Linda Sanchez, a Democrat who represents a swath of southeastern Los Angeles County, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen seeking to tie municipalities’ access to federal coronavirus aid to restaurants’ ability to keep their outdoor service.
“As you work to implement and finalize the rule for the [coronavirus state and local recovery funds] established under the American Rescue Plan Act, we are asking you to do more to protect restaurants,” Sanchez wrote.
Sanchez and her cosigners requested that Yellen add a requirement to the aid plan that “states, cities and localities allow restaurants to continue using outdoor spaces for the duration of the pandemic.”
“It is critical that restaurants be able to continue operating outdoors,” Sanchez wrote, “especially as winter approaches and the pandemic continues to pose a threat to lives and livelihoods.”
Sanchez and Minnesota Democratic Rep. Angie Craig led the effort. The letter was also signed by 18 more Democrats, including Ted Lieu, who represents a portion of western Los Angeles County, and Earl Blumenauer, who represents Portland, Ore.
The restaurant industry employs more than 15 million people across the country, according to the letter, and the pandemic has forced more than 90,000 restaurants to close.
In California, another law, Assembly Bill 61, which Gov. Newsom signed last month, already provides some protection to restaurants: The law gives businesses that expanded their premises during the pandemic a one-year grace period, from the time the state’s emergency period ends, to apply to make those expansions permanent.
A representative of one segment of the local restaurant industry showed strong support for Sanchez’s beefed up federal effort.
“The data shows people remain hesitant to eat out, especially dining indoors,” said Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, the Orange County Register reported. “Outdoor dining has been a lifeline for neighborhood restaurants and now is not the time to take that away.”
[Orange County Register] – Trevor Bach