Public spaces across Long Beach will look very different in the coming days as the city seeks to help struggling restaurants and give diners and shoppers a new way to experience the city.
With the state now allowing dine-service at restaurants, officials are preparing to launch an experiment with “open street” dining, which means restaurants in some areas can set up tables outdoors, including on public vehicular streets.
Among the first new spaces to be activated will be the area around Romeo Chocolates and The Pie Bar in Downtown Long Beach—which will likely look like the mock-up pop-up of temporary space that appeared in this same area earlier this month. The Promenade between Broadway and 3rd Street and The Allery at Burlinghall Drive and Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls are also expected to participate, where E.J. Malloy’s and Dutch’s Brewhouse will share the space.
Other spaces may soon follow, including parts of 2nd Street in Belmont Shore and Naples, however officials say logistics could be trickier given parking impacts and traffic issues along the corridor.
In a letter to constituents Thursday night, Councilwoman Suzie Price, who represents Belmont Shore, cautioned that officials are in the planning stages and the changes would be short-term only. Shoppers and diners may soon see parklets that stretch into the streets along the main thoroughfare as well as sidestreets for about 4 months.
“These steps are meant to take into account the difficult reality we find ourselves in today as we seek to manage significant impacts to public health, and work to repair our economy with practical and efficient solutions,” Price wrote.
Business has been largely shut down since health officials issued a sweeping stay-at-home order in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, unemployment in the city has risen to more than 25% and local businesses have struggled to stay afloat.
The city on Friday was granted a variance from stricter health orders by, allowing restaurants to reopen only at 50% capacity.
The City Council recently directed staff to create guidelines for how restaurants and other businesses can use public real estate to expand that capacity while maintaining proper social distancing practices. The city’s Public Works Department has taken the lead in working out a range of logistical issues to make the program happen.
“The main goal is to really achieve a pilot as quick as possible,” said Craig Beck, director of Public Works. Once the state variance is granted, he said, “we’ll be able to move in immediately and begin opening these spaces.”
According to Beck, the city will install K-rails, the protective concrete barriers that are used at events such as the Grand Prix, and create the spaces at zero-cost to businesses. The city will assume all liability and maintenance, he said, but will ask the restaurants to partner with the city in helping keep up the spaces as much as they can.
“What we’re seeking is a partnership in the end,” Beck said. “At some point, all these spaces will have to go away—so we want the public to enjoy them as much as possible, and making sure we have a strong partnership with businesses will only be beneficial for the initiative.”
The spaces initially targeted already have some connection to doing business outside. Romeo Chocolates and The Pie Bar in Downtown were used as case studies by architectural firm Studio One Eleven to showcase what was possible. The Allery is a well-known outdoor space utilized during Bixby Knolls’ First Fridays and will be closed so E.J. Malloy’s and Dutch’s Brewhouse can share the space. The Promenade in Downtown is already closed off to traffic.
As far as space and Naples is concerned, Beck said, “We are still communicating with businesses on 2nd Street. Hopefully we can have them confirmed to participate soon.”
Blair Cohn of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association plans on doing just that: Not only did he confirm The Allery, but said multiple businesses across Bixby Knolls will be taking advantage of newly created spaces through the initiative.
“Businesses and restaurants along Atlantic Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard will be using sidewalks, patios, and parking lot spaces,” Cohn said.
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