Silver Lake News: Could COVID-19 Outdoor Dining Program Become Permanent?

Silver Lake News

As we pass the two-year mark for the COVID-19 pandemic, some things have changed, and others, unfortunately, have not. While mask restrictions continue to loosen, and infection rates ebb and flow, Silver Lake residents are eager to get back to their previous ideas of normalcy. Looking at the latest in Silver Lake news, however, it’s fair to ask: will “normal” ever return?

Back in May of 2020, Los Angeles implemented an alfresco dining program that sought to encourage restaurant patronage in a relatively safe way. The plan, which was put forth by the Los Angeles City Council, allowed for restaurants to use sidewalks and adjoining parking lots to create outdoor dining spaces for their guests. While these measures served to alleviate some COVID-19 risks, they also helped restaurants by allowing them to maximize their outdoor spaces without the bureaucratic headache of seeking out additional permits.

COVID-19 Still an Ever-Present Issue

With the advent of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, Silver Lake residents are beginning to resume their lives in a manner closer to what the pre-COVID world resembled. With Spring entering in full swing, the urge to get back out to bars, restaurants, concerts, shops, and more is strong for many locals and tourists alike.

Still, COVID-19 remains a serious issue for Los Angeles County. To date, there have been nearly 3 million cases and more than 31,000 deaths. Those who are immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable are still advised to take every precaution necessary. As Los Angeles continues to monitor the pandemic and adapt to its whims, regulations and restrictions have and will continue to evolve. The COVID-19 outdoor dining program initially instituted as a temporary measure, could have real, long-term feasibility, even beyond the pandemic–assuming we ever get there.

The Lasting Benefits Of A More Permanent Measure

While at the time the LA outdoor dining ordinance was a welcome reprieve for struggling restaurateurs, the long-term benefits of leaving it in place are considerable. As this measure opened up spaces for businesses to expand their operations, many business owners justifiably do not want to see it removed. With this in mind, Mayor Eric Garcetti has voiced his support for making the policy permanent. 

“In a city whose unofficial motto is 72 and sunny, let’s make al fresco dining permanent, including nearly $2 million (in the 2021-22 fiscal year) in grants for restaurants in low-income neighborhoods to set up permanent parklets for outdoor dining,” the mayor was recently quoted as saying. 

On Tuesday, March 22nd, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 to make the COVID-19 outdoor dining program permanent. This vote instructs the Fire Department, the Department of Building and Safety, the City Attorney, and the Department of City Planning to work together on devising a city-wide ordinance. This would call for simplifying outdoor dining requirements as they currently exist through the zoning code. New regulations and processes will also have to be created by city departments to make this plan feasible. 

How This Plan Could Work in Practice

Of course, any regulatory action is not going to happen overnight. This plan, which would be rather broadly sweeping, will call for a rather long list of considerations. While having a version of this measure already in place helps, in some ways, there is still a new frontier to navigate.

One major aspect that warrants attention is managing public parking in high-demand areas, which could take a major hit. Los Angeles is notoriously disagreeable with parking availability, so the encouragement of public transportation use could prove central to the permanent al fresco dining plan. There are also neighborhood noise concerns as well as other residential issues that will merit careful thought. 

The COVID-19 outdoor dining policy also wanders into some gray areas when it comes to alcohol service. As there are very specific–and strict–laws about where and how alcohol can be served, there may be some policy tweaking that will need to take place.

With its potential passage, this policy could be a major boon for Silver Lake businesses. As the area is known for its trendy bars and hotspot eateries, making them more accessible could draw new traffic to the area. With expanded seating options, the days of long wait times could be near an end–although, this is Los Angeles, so you may not want to count on that.

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Silver Lake is one of the most vibrant and eclectic communities in Los Angeles. With countless bars, restaurants, concert venues, and shops, this neighborhood truly features something for everybody. To stay current on the latest Eastside happenings, be sure to visit Silverlandia. We always have the latest on events and news in Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Echo Park, and Atwater Village.

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