Restaurant parklets could remain on city streets until July 2022 after the Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to extend the city’s open streets program that has allowed businesses to expand seating capacities during the pandemic.
The request to extend the program was proposed by the city’s Public Works department, which said that outdoor dining has not only helped businesses survive pandemic restrictions but has also become popular with customers.
The extension would also extend to businesses using parking lots for outdoor dining. The council’s previous extension of the program was set to expire at the start of October.
However, an amendment to the proposal could put some parklets on 2nd Street in jeopardy as a new protest process will be created for residents to report business owners who are not honoring the terms of their approval to operate outdoors.
A public meeting held in that community could serve to sort out those that are not being used as intended, being properly maintained or encroaching on other businesses’ parking spaces. Diko Melkonian, Deputy Director of Public Works, said the parklets could be reevaluated as needed.
Councilwoman Suzie Price, who represents Belmont Shore, said it’s important for residents to have an appeal process because there are some parklets in the area that need to be addressed. Price is expected to hold a meeting in the coming months with a plan for the parklets on 2nd Street to be heard by the full council by the end of the year.
“It’s the only business corridor that has numerous homes within just a few feet of businesses,” Price said. “The impacts are felt at a much deeper level.”
Residents from Belmont Shore lodged complaints that some parklets on 2nd Street were creating quality of life issues like people urinating in public and loud music and conversations disrupting their home lives.
They said they were happy to support restaurants during the pandemic when inside-dining bans crippled businesses, but “that time is over,” they said.
Several business owners along the corridor challenged that stance, stating that many of their customers still prefer to eat outside for a variety of reasons, including COVID-19.
“We’re really not out of the woods yet,” said Ryan Hofman, who co-owns Saint & Second. “We hear there are indoor vaccine mandates coming in different areas and we’re very concerned about that and we have quite a bit of invested into our parklets.”
Rebecca Hinderer, co-owner of Let’s Yolk About it, said she was appalled to hear that residents had suffered because of some of the parklets on the corridor but said that the pandemic is not over until masks are allowed to come off and everyone feels safe doing so.
“I had a very slow morning in our inside today, but there was a 15-minute wait for my parklet,” Hinderer said.
Jimmy Loizides, who owns George’s Greek Cafe, said that it’s not an exaggeration that the parklets saved his family’s business and asked for the council to support the extension.
“I’m in support of parklets for Belmont Shore but I’m also in favor of policing it,” Loizides said.
Businesses wanting to keep their parklets beyond the July 2022 deadline will have to apply to the city for permanent status. Doing that could require business owners to make structural improvements to their designs as well as secure insurance policies for them.
The city has previously said that some outdoor dining spaces would not be allowed to apply for permanent status because they pose traffic safety or accessibility issues for the public.
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