LA County shifts course, tries to keep popup markets in restaurants open

With restrictions already forcing restaurants to forgo dine-in options and go strictly to delivery and take-out, restaurateurs have tried to get creative. One strategy has been turning local restaurants into neighborhood grocery shops.

But after Los Angeles County issued new directives this week, those popup bodegas were effectively closed because they did not have permits to operate as grocery stores under state law.

That could change though, after Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn made an urgency motion that passed unanimously at today’s virtual Board of Supervisors meeting directing the county Department of Public Health to create a set of guidelines that would allow the restaurants to keep selling unprepared items like produce, eggs and meat without running afoul of state law.

“Like so many other business owners, these small restaurants have been put in a challenging situation, and they are trying to come up with creative solutions to keep their doors open, pay their employees, and feed their communities,” said Hahn in a statement. “These restaurants want to be part of the solution. To aid them in this effort, I have asked the Department of Public Health to give them guidelines, so that restaurants can sell produce and unprepared food and continue to operate in a way that is safe for their workers and their customers.”

Hahn’s motion was passed unanimously, with guidelines expected to be returned within one week.

Hahn’s move wouldn’t affect Long Beach directly because the city has its own health department, which makes its own rules apart from the county. But it could influence the city.

Long Beach’s official stance on the bodegas remained unclear as of last night, when Mayor Robert Garcia and Dr. Anissa Davis of the city’s health department said Long Beach would search for ways to see if they could manage to keep the shops open as they attempt to “maintain alignment with L.A. County.”

“Right now we are looking at making restaurant markets work,” Garcia said. “There are no plans to shut them down but we are going to ensure that they are safe. We should have an official city position statement by tonight or tomorrow.”

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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