After extending its outdoor dining terrace program three times since its launch in June 2020, Manhattan Beach is pulling the plug.
And the city’s decision to require temporary patios to be removed after the first of the year surprised some local restaurateurs.
In June 2020, the city authorized temporary bridges in the public right-of-way – occupying parking spaces and sidewalks in front of restaurants that requested the extra space. Throughout the pandemic, additional outdoor dining has helped restaurants maintain healthy business while indoor restaurants have been closed.
And, Manhattan Beach is ready to return to pre-pandemic levels for traffic and pedestrian safety, Mayor Hildy Stern said at the last council meeting.
Temporary restore bridges have their issues, Stern said. Among the problems he cited:
–Increase in traffic in the city center,
–No more waste;
–Insufficient capacity to clean streets and sidewalks;
– Disrupted access to the Americans with Disabilities Act;
–Narrowed driving lanes;
– Riskier pedestrian safety; and
– More noise.
Stern said these negative impacts “are not evident when you’re sitting dining al fresco on a beautiful night looking out at the ocean.”
Thus, the Manhattan Beach City Council decided, instead of extending its program, to continue to apply an end date of January 3.
Restaurants will have at least three business days after Jan. 3 to remove them, said community development manager Carrie Tai.
After that, unless a restaurant already has a private patio, Manhattan Beach diners will be required to eat indoors where dining is open at full capacity under current Los Angeles County public health guidelines.
For city bars and breweries that don’t serve food, that means checking for proof of vaccination according to Los Angeles County public health guidelines.
But there is hope for a permanent restoration program, Tai said via email, as his staff began weighing options earlier this year.
But that would take time. Building permanent bridges for all restaurants that have temporary ones would take nearly three years, Tai said.
And that’s just not fast enough for some restaurateurs who fear losing customers accustomed to eating outdoors.
Restaurateur Mike Simms said by phone he was disappointed the city didn’t act sooner. Had that been the case, he said, there would have been a smoother transition between the temporary and permanent restoration bridges.
The bridges weren’t built to withstand weather or people sitting for more than a year, Simms said.
“Now we’re not going to be able to compete fairly with” other cities that aren’t tearing down their bridges yet, Simms said.
Hermosa Beach is discussing expanding its temporary program at a council meeting this week, city spokeswoman Laura Mecoy said, as well as considering a permanent outdoor dining program in the city.
Redondo Beach, meanwhile, is retaining temporary bridges through the end of March and is also pursuing permanent bridges, community development manager Brandy Forbes said.
Simms, who has temporary bridges at MB Post, Fishing with Dynamite, Simmzy’s and The Arthur J in Manhattan Beach, said he expected the council to extend the bridges over the public right-of-way again as he had done it three other times during the pandemic. .
The restaurateur has joined other Manhattan Beach restaurant owners to create a website, supportoutdoordiningmb.com, where people can sign up to support keeping a bigger outdoor dining program in the city. city.
Paul Hennessey, owner of Hennessey’s Taverns in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, said over the phone that the loss of outdoor seating at his Manhattan Beach location — for as long as it takes — will certainly hurt business.
“It would probably cost us 25% — maybe more — of our sales if they took away parklets to eat at one of the establishments,” Hennessey said. “If we didn’t have the bridges, we couldn’t have survived the last six months in the three cities.”
Even though full capacity is allowed indoors, most people still feel more comfortable eating outdoors, Hennessey said.
The Manhattan Beach Council in October reduced the size of the parklets to be limited to the respective storefronts of the establishments, which allowed some places to have more space to sit outside than others.
“It’s not like we’re back to normal,” Simms said, “We’re still in pandemic mode where there are health restrictions and individuals who just don’t want to sit inside .”
The staff at his establishments did not take much time after January. 3 reservations, Simms said, and informing customers that things are about to change.
Unlike other business owners in the area, Bob Beverly, owner of Shellback Tavern, removed his temporary patios in October to make way for urban events such as pumpkin races.
Beverly, unlike her counterparts, isn’t afraid of losing business. Things are going well with the bridges already removed, he said.
“We were given the outdoor space when we couldn’t put people inside,” Beverly said. “Now 100% indoors is allowed, so I thought it would be selfish of us to take up space when we could go back to our normal activities,” Beverly said.
And, Beverly said, he agrees with downtown residents who want the area to return to normal.
“We are a residential community and we need to stay that way,” Beverly said. “Dining out is nice but not to the detriment” of the neighborhood.
The outdoor dining debate is far from over, Stern said.
“It’s just a pause to do this in a way that encompasses everything we’ve learned over the past year,” Stern said. “We have the vision that we want this to be a long-term solution.”