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Will An Extra Hour Help? Manhattan Beach Restaurants Say Yes

Aug 08, 2020 08:52AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

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

Diners can now enjoy eating outdoors until 11:00 p.m. at Manhattan Beach restaurants, thanks to a new city rule aimed at helping restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis.

But will extending the time just one hour - from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. -  make a significant difference? Local restaurant owners, who have seen enormous losses since the pandemic shutdown began, say yes.

"It seems like a trivial aspect for one extra hour, but I can assure you that extra hour is prime sales when most of our restaurants have paid for the staff to be there and we've paid for the rent for the day." local restaurateur Mike Simms told the Manhattan Beach City Council on Tuesday. "Those extra sales are what makes us survive and potentially flourish."

An Extra Hour in Manhattan Beach


At Tuesday's meeting, the City Council officially agreed to extend operating hours for restaurants until 11:00 p.m., with the last call for food and beverage at 10:30 PM.  The new policy comes as part of the city’s efforts to assist the business community as they respond to COVID-19 safety protocols that limit indoor operations.

“Our city is fortunate to have fantastic outdoor dining, and our restaurants can now extend those opportunities with an extra hour of operation,” said Mayor Richard Montgomery in a statement. “That being said, our businesses and patrons must be mindful of residential communities nearby. We are a community and we must all do our part to ensure that both residents and businesses can thrive during these difficult times.”

Customers must depart restaurants' outdoor dining areas by 11:00 p.m. but restaurant staff will be allowed 30 minutes to clean and secure their dining decks, according to the city.

Additionally, at its Tuesday night meeting, the Manhattan Beach City Council agreed to tighten penalties by adding temporary suspensions to the existing enforcement policy for outdoor dining. The enforcement policy is now as follows: 

  • 1st Violation - $250 fine; 
  • 2nd Violation - $500 fine;
  • 3rd Violation - $1,000 fine and suspension of all operations for two days; and 
  • 4th Violation - $1,000 fine and suspension of all operations for four days.

Carrie Tai, Manhattan Beach's community development director, said that 18 restaurants are currently using in-street areas for outdoor dining and three more restaurants are in the application process. Additionally, 17 restaurants are using sidewalk areas (although there is some overlap because some restaurants are using both types of spaces), she said.


Restaurants Losing Money With Restrictions


Simms, - who was recently elected as the president of the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professionals Association - told City Council members that his restaurants had not sought the extension until 11:00 p.m. when outdoor dining was first approved, because they had indoor dining at the same time. But since indoor dining was shut down five weeks ago, the restaurants are earning "only a fraction" of what they might otherwise make, he said. 

Sylvie Gabriele, owner of Love & Salt, also spoke out in favor of the change. She said that the with the curfew restricted until 10:00 p.m., her restaurant's projected revenue loss was approximately $60,000 per month.

That loss represents the difference of revenue from customers after 7:30 p.m. pre-COVID and post-COVID with outdoor dining only (with dollar figures adjusted for the reduced seating capacity), Gabriele told DigMB. 

"We had to do a last seating at 7:30 p.m. with the 10:00 p.m. outdoor dining curfew, as compared to our last seating of 9:30 p.m. pre-COVID," she said.

The difference can be stark in terms of the number of people served. For example, on Saturday, August 1, 2020, Love & Salt served 64 fewer customers after 7:30 p.m. than they did on Saturday, August 3 in 2019.

With the extension until 11:00 p.m., Gabriele said that the last reservation will now be 9:00 p.m., and they may allow walk-up customers at 9:30 p.m. if the customers will agree to be out by 10:45. "The extension will definitely be helpful," Gabriele said.


Concern for Neighbors


One factor that had potentially held the City Council back from extending the time was concern for neighbors and potential noise from the restaurants. 

Simms said that he had spent many weekends walking and measuring decibel levels in the neighborhoods, and that he hadn't found any noise levels that he considered "offensive," but he understood the need for sensitivity.

"If [the extension to 11:00] is given, it can always be taken away," he said. "It would be a trial opportunity for restaurants in the downtown area to show you that we do mean to be great citizens of Manhattan Beach."

To report a possible violation of outdoor dining hours, residents are asked to call the City’s non-emergency phone number at 310-802-5140.

As a reminder, while operating outdoors, all employees and customers must continue to follow public health orders and city orders, including wearing face coverings and physical distancing at all times. Diners may remove their face covering only while eating food and drinking beverages. 


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