Area cities consider extending outdoor dining policies

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By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer

DOWNEY — Outdoor dining, approved as a temporary way to help restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, has become popular and is being extended or made permanent in many area cities.

City Council members in Downey Sept. 28 extended outdoor dining, with health and safety measures, citywide to the end of 2022.

The Bellflower City Council Sept. 27 extended and expanded the ability for restaurants to conduct outdoor dining on a permanent basis with permits and by observing specific health and safety rules in the downtown area along Bellflower Boulevard from the Artesia (91) Freeway to a point south of Alondra Boulevard.

In Paramount, outdoor dining practices ended June 15 when California Gov. Gavin Newsom reopened the state to allow indoor dining.

But the Paramount City Council Sept. 21 declared permanent outdoor dining would be permitted with a conditional use permit and following health and safety practices.

However, for those who may not want to undergo the expense of permanent outdoor dining, city staff has proposed a program called “Dine Paramount,” which would allow various outdoor events, officials there said.

Aldo E. Schindler, Downey’s deputy city manager, noted in a report to that council Sept. 28 that Anaheim will allow outdoor dining to Jan. 3, 2022; Cerritos until Jan. 14, 2022; and that La Mirada, Pasadena and Whittier plan to extend it to the end of 2021.

Buena Park, Lakewood and Orange have no current deadline for removal of outdoor eateries, he said.

In his report, Schindler said 37 restaurants in Downey took advantage of the state and county actions to allow outdoor dining to make up for rules against indoor eating during the pandemic, which began in spring 2020.

Downey approved temporary outdoor dining, with conditions, June 9, 2020 and on Aug. 25, 2020 extended it until the state decided indoor dining was safe again.

Although the state began allowing indoor dining again June 15, it currently allows outdoor dining through the end of the year, Schindler said.

“Staff surveyed the 37 local restaurants currently participating in the temporary outdoor dining program to determine their plans for continued use of temporary dining areas,” Schindler said in his report.

“Twelve restaurant owners said they had already removed or plan to remove their outdoor dining equipment before the end of the year, but 25 owners would like to continue as long as possible. Some restaurant owners have expressed hesitation in removing the temporary outdoor dining areas due to concerns over the current reports of the impacts that different variants are causing, despite the current availability of vaccines,” Schindler added.

He noted in his report that the council’s downtown subcommittee had supported continuing outdoor dining on ”parklettes” along Downey Avenue between Second and Third streets, until the end of the year, but with certain conditions.

The conditions included a six-foot clear space on sidewalks between the parklets and buildings, a business license and street encroachment permit, proof of insurance, limits on noise and eating areas must be kept clean.

Dining areas encroaching into the street must be protected from passing traffic by cement K-rails.

Paramount’s Assistant City Manager Andrew Vialpando, in a report to his council Sept. 17, noted that while state or county laws allowing outdoor dining have or will soon expire, the city can continue its Paramount Al Fresco program, which enables local restaurants to continue to operate outdoor dining with permits.

The program was initially approved in August 2020 as a temporary help to restaurant owners who were forbidden to allow indoor eating because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Paramount Al Fresco attracted 14 participating restaurants with approximately 10 still offering outdoor dining at the time that this report was written, Vialpando said.

“An additional nine restaurants operated unpermitted, with approximately six still offering outdoor dining options. Code enforcement will contact the latter.

“Restaurant owners interested in pursuing permanent outdoor dining are required by the Paramount Municipal Code to obtain approval through the conditional use permit process,” Vialpando said in his report.

“To qualify, restaurant owners must pay an application fee, pass a safety and regulation analysis, and obtain Planning Commission approval,” he said in his report.

“A program called Dine Paramount would be, an alternative to outdoor dining option, which could hypothetically result in costly renovations for restaurateurs. The city plans to offer restaurant owners a chance to participate in various promotional outdoor dining events as part of the city’s Explore Paramount campaign,” he added.

“Conceptually, Dine Paramount is a multi-faceted approach to attract existing and new customers to various local eateries in town. In the coming months, staff plans to develop and promote a variety of promotional dining events, including events that incorporate a temporary outdoor element,” he said.

Vialpando said city employees would collaborate with the Paramount Chamber of Commerce and the city’s communications consultant, Tripepi Smith, to develop promotional dining ideas to encourage restaurant owners to join Dine Paramount, and advertise the Dine Paramount concept to the public using social media, billboard advertisement and local publications.

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