Los Angeles Proposes Outdoor Dining Ordinance, Outraging Restaurateurs

Proposal could leave restaurants with thousands of dollars in losses from wading through the city’s paperwork

By Dolores Quintana 

After three years of the pandemic, restaurants are still struggling to deal with the ever-changing economic challenges and stay afloat in troubled times. The Los Angeles City Council is clearly starting to rethink the special rules that gave businesses some help during the toughest times. They are thinking more about “getting back to normal” than trying to find innovative ways to work with local restaurants. 

The Al Fresco Program is a successful and popular program where restaurants were allowed to build parklets in the open air outside of their normal restaurant space to bring more customers to dine in rather than use take-out options which could increase their profits. Open air is considered a safer place to avoid Covid infection so the logic is that open-air dining could bring customers back and it worked. However, now that most Covid assistance programs are winding down whether or not the pandemic is truly over, businesses will have to deal with changes to those programs that have been a godsend to them for years. 

The Los Angeles City Council is now considering an ordinance that would roll back the special conditions related to the construction of parklets for open-air dining as reported by The Robb Report. Restaurant owners with outdoor dining areas or parklets would be obligated to obtain permits and licensing that they have not previously been required to do during the pandemic and adhere to new restrictions and be subject to building codes and restrictions on operating hours. 

We spoke to a representative from Teddy’s Red Tacos in Venice and their representative said, “They won’t affect our business, but it will affect how much we pay for it in permits and unnecessary fees that we didn’t have before. We’re still recovering from the pandemic, right,? Three years of damage, we don’t know when it ends. They haven’t given us any grace or mercy. It’s extremely disappointing, considering restaurants usually have a hard time. They don’t even give us any recovery time or any way to help us recover. We thought this was a nice gesture that they gave us with the Al Fresco program and now they want to tax it with payments and permits.”

The representative added, “Maybe they need to put an effort to show that they want to keep restaurants open or make it easier for restaurants to make money year-round. Where they all come around in summer and say, oh, it’s summer, you kind of busy you are. It’s not every day that you do well. What am I supposed to do? Send my crew home and have them cut hours?”

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