LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday threw its support behind keeping expanded outdoor dining options available after the state lifts other business restrictions on June 15.
Outdoor dining was temporarily allowed to expand during the COVID-19 pandemic, with seating in some cases taking up public sidewalks and parking spaces, as restaurants were forced to close their indoor seating areas.
Now restaurants throughout California are expected to reopen to full capacity for indoor dining starting June 15.
But not all of them want things to go back to exactly how they were before the pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said expanded outdoor dining should continue. But local cities and counties could set their own rules.
The Los Angeles County board on Tuesday approved a motion asking county officials to develop guidelines for expanded outdoor dining options, which could involve the use of public sidewalks, alleys and parking facilities.
“Outdoor dining should be one of the things we hold on to after the pandemic is over,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Restaurants have appreciated it, diners have embraced it, and we have the beautiful weather to make it enjoyable all year long.”
Many restaurants have urged officials to let expanded outdoor dining continue, as customers have grown accustomed to and at times prefer that option. Many of them spent thousands of dollars to set up the temporary dining areas.
In places like Santa Clarita, where some restaurants closed and reopened three times during the pandemic, business owners hope city officials will agree to let outdoor dining stay.
“Every single time the health department tells us something, we jump through a hoop that costs us a fortune,” said Cherie McGraham, owner of Smokehouse on Main.
“Nobody is paying that back to us. And then they can just make a decision like that and we have to change gears. That’s not fair.”
McGraham says the outdoor setups cost a few thousand dollars to put together. After spending quarantine inside, most of her customers now want to sit outside
“I’m more of an outdoor kind of guy,” said diner Chris Burkman, a Santa Clarita resident. “Especially with summer coming up it’s gonna be warm weather. A lot of nighttime life coming around so I think they should definitely stay.”
The Santa Clarita city council originally said all additional outdoor seating would have to be removed by June 15. But now the city is saying: “There will NOT be an abrupt closure of outdoor dining following the June 15 date, instead we will work with our local restaurants on a reasonable transition schedule.”
McGraham says that’s not enough. She needs some long-term certainty to make the right decisions for her business.
“They’re not telling us how long. Are we talking two weeks or do I go spend $4,000 more on porto-cools to cool people down thinking I might have this for the heat of the summer? That’s the worst part.”
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