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What are the proposed changes to L.A. outdoor dining permits?

On Behalf of | Feb 10, 2023 | Commercial Leases

To say it’s been a rough few years for the restaurant industry is an understatement. As the owner of one hospitality group puts it, “It’s like being kicked in the shins, over and over again.”

Now, restaurant owners in Los Angeles are facing another potential challenge. In 2020, a program called LA. Al Fresco allowed them to quickly obtain permits to set up or expand outdoor dining areas. 

That allowed many restaurant owners to get back on their feet at a time when dining indoors wasn’t allowed or, if it was, attracted few customers. Now, a proposed ordinance is threatening to jeopardize this outdoor expansion and making many restaurant owners nervous.

New, more restrictive permits

The proposal would require restaurants in the city to apply for new permits to continue to have outdoor dining. The cost of these new permits – if they can be obtained — could drive some restaurants out of business. The proposal would also limit the amount of space that could be allotted for customers outdoors.

Many restaurants invested tens of thousands of dollars or more in outdoor furniture, landscaping and other necessities to provide or expand their outdoor dining. Now some will have to scale that back, and others may have to end their outdoor dining completely.

Owners call it a “money grab” and “sucker punch”

The owner of one Sherman Oaks eatery calls it “a huge money grab of the city” and “government overreach.” The owner of a Los Feliz restaurant calls the proposal “another sucker punch” to the city’s restaurants. As one noted, this proposal still doesn’t address the requirements of other city departments regarding the various areas like sections of parking lots, “parklets” and even alleys where outdoor seating was set up.

The proposal is a ways from going into effect. The planning commission will vote on it this spring, and it will require approval by the L.A. City Council.

That leaves restaurant owners who need to renew their lease in a difficult position of not knowing whether they’ll be able to stay in business – at least at their current location. It’s also a challenge for property owners who may have to decide whether to continue to lease their space for restaurant use. However any changes to this program will affect you, it’s wise to have legal guidance.