Long Beach may let restaurants keep temporary outdoor-dining areas longer than planned

Mayor Robert Garcia is pushing city officials to let restaurants keep their temporary outdoor-dining areas in place past June 30, which is when the city’s current authorization for them expires.

The patios, or parklets, allowed over 100 Long Beach restaurants to expand dining capacity during the pandemic. They have been an economic lifeline for the businesses, Garcia argued in a letter to the City Council.

The council is expected to vote on the item on May 18. Garcia asked members to consider both a permanent and temporary extension option for individual patio areas across the city.

Garcia wrote that some business owners have asked to keep the spaces in order to grow economically and some residents remain hesitant to eat indoors despite state and local rules that currently allows 50% capacity for indoor-dining.

“Our open streets and patio dining program has been a huge success, Garcia said in a tweet Tuesday. “It’s provided spaces for folks to enjoy and helped restaurants survive the pandemic.”

There are 107 temporary patios in the city and 12 are currently under consideration to be permanent, a Public Works official told the Post last week.

While certain sections of the city, such as Pine Avenue, have been identified by city leaders as spaces that could be blocked off permanently to allow for increased pedestrian traffic, other corridors with parklets were intended to be temporary.

With the expiration date looming, a coalition of restaurateurs have been circulating a petition to keep the patios and parklets open past June 30. They’ve collected over 500 signatures so far.

It’s unclear how state laws, which were amended during the pandemic to allow service of alcoholic beverages on public property, might affect the city’s decision to extend the parklet program.

State COVID-19 restrictions are largely expected to be lifted June 15, but regulatory agencies like the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control have not signaled when they will rescind temporary rules for bars and restaurants.

Keeping the parklets longer also creates other potential problems, such as Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, declining  parking-meter revenue and blocked parking spaces. How the city will charge businesses to set up tables on formerly public spaces is also likely to be a topic of debate.

The May 18 City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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