Proposed Outdoor Dining Ordinance Could Decimate L.A.’s ‘Al Fresco’ Dining

Restaurant owners say the new regulations proposed by the city for installing and maintaining outdoor dining areas would put them out of reach for many businesses.

2 minute read

February 9, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Outdoor dining patio in street in Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, surrounded by white picket fence

An outdoor dining patio in Echo Park, Los Angeles. | MBUS / Los Angeles, California

During the pandemic, the Al Fresco Dining program launched by Los Angeles that allowed restaurants to install outdoor dining patios in front of their businesses kept many of them afloat, with more than 2,500 businesses taking advantage of the program. As Jenn Harris explains in the Los Angeles Times, “The program bypassed the usual paperwork, bureaucracy, fees and months of approval that accompany the city permitting process, allowing restaurants to apply for free permits online in minutes and to set up dining areas on private property, on sidewalks, along curbsides and in the street.”

The program is now under threat as city officials outline regulations for the future. While city planners say the streamlined program was always intended to be temporary, restaurant owners say they are still barely beginning to work their way out from under the debt they accrued during the pandemic at a time when ingredient and labor costs are soaring. 

“Now, the city’s proposed ordinance would revert to confusing red tape that could cost restaurants tens of thousands of dollars and put those who can’t afford the additional costs out of business for good.” The proposed ordinance would make the process cost tens of thousands and potentially require a zoning variance. “In addition to the new permits, the proposed ordinance includes restrictions such as the height of a barrier wall, the number of parking spaces that could be turned into outdoor dining areas and allowances for private events.” 

Harris also points out that the ordinance only applies to zoning. Restaurants would likely have to apply for additional permits from the Department of Building and Safety and the Department of Transportation.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 in Los Angeles Times

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