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City Council Votes To Expand Outdoor Dining Opportunities

Jul 04, 2020 09:30AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Outdoor dining at The Arthur J, part of the Simms Restaurant Group. Photo via The Arthur J

Love dining outside? You'll have more chances to enjoy it in Manhattan Beach this summer.

The Manhattan Beach City Council, in an emergency meeting on Friday, voted to expand opportunities and make it more feasible for local restaurants to offer outdoor dining.

The council acted in response to a move by state and county officials earlier this week to shut down indoor dining for 21 days, due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“On short notice, the city has taken various emergency measures to ensure we can balance the collective interests of limiting the spread of COVID-19, while assisting our business community during this difficult time,” said Mayor Richard Montgomery in a statement.

The city council acted to extend the deadline for restaurants to apply for "parklets" (encroachments into public parking spaces). It also approved various easements and adjustments to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor options. Additionally, a new ad hoc task force committee will explore long-term proposals relating to outdoor dining.

Kelly Stroman, the president/CEO of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, had written to the city council urging them to consider all options for helping restaurants and other businesses. She described Manhattan Beach businesses as an "ecosystem," saying that when one business suffers, so do the others.

"I am so pleased that they made decisions that will benefit every part of town," Stroman told DigMB after the meeting. "Each area has its own nuances and it is so important that we address them all specifically."

Expanded Opportunities For Outdoor Dining


The city agreed to the following motions:
  1. Extending the June 22 application deadline for parklets (encroachments into public parking spaces) to allow for additional applications; 
  2. Directing staff to consider, on a case-by-case basis, applications for parklets and sidewalk dining filed by the same restaurant, where appropriate;
  3. Directing the traffic engineer to take all necessary steps to reduce the speed limit on Highland Avenue to 25 mph from the northern city boundary to Rosecrans Avenue to facilitate outdoor dining in that area of the city;
  4. Establishing an ad hoc task force committee, consisting of Councilmembers Napolitano and Hersman, to consider long term solutions to address ongoing state and county restrictions regarding COVID-19;
  5. Authorizing the closure of two portions of Ocean Drive immediately adjacent to Manhattan Beach Boulevard to facilitate outdoor dining in the public right-of-way;
  6. Directing staff to explore additional outdoor business uses on walk streets; and 
  7. Directing staff to inform the business community of various opportunities that may allow outdoor uses.

The motion to reduce the speed limit on Highland Ave. would help restaurants in North Manhattan Beach, most notably Fishbar, which is located on Highland Ave. just north of Rosecrans. 

Fishbar executive chef and director of operations Jessica Jordan had spoken out at the meeting, noting that her current outdoor sidewalk space only allowed for four tables of two diners each. "We cannot survive with that," she said.

Jordan added that she had had potential guests leave and say, "Let's go to El Segundo or Downtown Manhattan Beach where they have outdoor dining."

Currently, the speed limit is 35 mph on that section of Highland Ave. and outdoor dining is not allowed on any street with cars traveling at that speed. With the reduced speed limit, Fishbar would be able to consider outdoor "parklets" in their available parking spaces.

Any business interested in expanding their outdoor dining or retail uses is urged to reach out to the Community Development Department at planning@citymb.info or by phone at 310-802-5520 to apply for an Outdoor Facilities Permit. 

Compliance with Health Orders Needed

 
County health orders require that individuals always wear face coverings securely over their noses and mouths and keep six feet apart from others not in their household when out and about. Businesses must continue to follow public health directives, or risk being reported to the L.A. County Department of Public Health and possibly shut down.

In her letter to City Council, Stroman mentioned that she had spoken with Liza Frias of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Environmental Health division. Stroman said Frias told her that in field visits in the past week the department found that 33% of the restaurants in the South Bay were not practicing mandated six-foot distancing between tables or using plexy barriers where applicable, and 44% of servers and employees interacting in the dining area were not wearing face shields and facial coverings; most were only wearing a facial covering.

"It is crucial that ALL restaurants meet and strive to exceed the mandated protocols," wrote Stroman in her letter to the council. "This NOT a choice, it is a requirement...ALL restaurants must meet these requirements or they should not be allowed to expand their dining footprint outside."


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