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Manhattan Beach Outdoor Dining Can Begin Friday

Jan 27, 2021 08:44AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The outdoor dining deck at Fishbar in Manhattan Beach. Photo via Fishbar.

Manhattan Beach restaurants will be allowed to reopen outdoor dining as early as Friday, ending a COVID-19 shutdown of in-person dining that has lasted since before Thanksgiving.

The reopening was prompted by the lifting of statewide stay-at-home orders by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, as well as a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) announcement that in-person dining could resume on Friday. 

The city of Manhattan Beach had briefly considering reopening its "parklets" (outdoor dining decks in which people could eat takeout food) this week in the middle of the week following Newsom's announcement. However, when LACDPH announced the return of in-person dining on Friday, the city opted to wait until Friday when restaurants could fully open with outdoor service. 

"The city has scrapped the plan to reopen parklets in favor of waiting on newly-allowed outdoor dining to begin on Friday," said Manhattan Beach Mayor Suzanne Hadley. "Restaurants then do not have to pivot twice in a week with new rules and regulations."

Although the restaurant reopenings have drawn the most attention, other business sectors have been affected by this week's announcements as well. The LACDPH announced on Monday that the following are now open or allowed:
  • Private gatherings outdoors up to 3 households and up to a total of 15 people
  • Museums, zoos, aquariums outdoor operations at 50% occupancy
  • Cardrooms outdoor operations at 50% occupancy
  • Miniature golf, go karts, batting cages outdoor operations at 50% occupancy
  • Outdoor recreational activities
  • Hotels & motels for tourism and individual travel 
  • Fitness facilities with outdoor operations
  • Personal care services indoors at 25% capacity
  • Indoor mall, shopping center, lower-risk retail at 25% indoor capacity; food courts and common areas remain closed

Restaurant Closings Controversial From the Start

Restaurants have gone through a variety of ups and downs since the beginning of the pandemic. When Manhattan Beach restaurants began opening in June after initial closures, they received approval from the city to expand outdoor eating areas. Those outdoor spaces became even more important when indoor dining shut down in July. As further restrictions began to limit restaurants' business, the city agreed to to further expand street dining areas in the public right-of-way.

But perhaps the  biggest outcry came just before Thanksgiving, when L.A. County Public Health ordered the suspension of all in-person dining, including outdoor dining due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, rendering the newly constructed outdoor dining areas useless.

Restaurant owners and Manhattan Beach leaders spoke out immediately, with then-mayor Richard Montgomery authoring a letter to LADPH. "Over 59 businesses in Manhattan Beach and 209 in the South Bay have signed the 'Safe in the South Bay' commitment, pledging to adhere to and implement the latest safety guidelines and best practices to combat COVID-19, consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health," wrote Montgomery. "We understand the need to find the right path to reducing exposure and that difficult sacrifices must be made, but let's not put this on the backs of our restaurants, breweries, wineries, and bars that have gone to great lengths to show compliance and remain open."

In early December, Manhattan Beach decided to reopen the dining decks as "parklets" to allow open seating for anyone who ordered takeout or who needed a place to sit while shopping.

However, that decision ran afoul of LACDPH officials, who asked the city to shut them down. And as people flocked to the outdoor seating - while cases continued to rise - the city shut down the parklets in early January.

At the time, Manhattan Beach Councilmember Steve Napolitano said that the city had become "a victim of its own success," having drawn diners from all over who were drinking, eating, and lingering maskless in groups. Napolitano added that he thought the real answer was to go back to outdoor dining, which is much more strictly regulated and controlled.

As of Friday, restaurants will once again be able to operate outdoor dining, with all required precautionary measures in place.

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