LA City Council instructions agencies to report on feasibility of making Al Fresco program permanent
By Sam Catanzaro
Los Angeles lawmakers took steps this week to make permanent the outdoor dining program implemented at the beginning of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 with one abstention to make permanent the current Al Fresco program. The program, implemented in May 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, streamlines the process for restaurants and bars to expand dining areas into the street, sidewalk and private lots adjacent to the applicant’s establishment.
The Wednesday vote instructed the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, Department of Transportation and other agencies to report on recommendations to make the program permanent while being compliant American Disabilities Act regulations.
“After the local emergency is lifted, expectations for in-restaurant dining will likely have changed and flexible outdoor dining settings should continue to be made available,” reads the motion. “Outdoor dining has provided additional dining space for smaller, family owned restaurants, while taking advantage of Southern California’s climate and preserving the unique character of neighborhoods with smaller shops and restaurants.”
In addition, Council’s action requested the City Attorney to report on the feasibility of revising Department of Transportation policy to give restaurants exclusive use of the public right-of-way.
Among supporters of making the program permanent is the Independent Hospitality Coalition, representing over 450 members made up of local food service business operators and employees within the Los Angeles area.
“Al Fresco is currently one of the only lifelines our industry has to survive during these unprecedented times,” the organization wrote in a letter to city council. “As independent small businesses, we don’t have access to financing and funding for support like other large businesses have the ability to do, and we rely on the funding of Al Fresco, as well as the efficiency of this Al Fresco program.”
Council’s action this week instructs the various departments to report back in 60 days with recommendations on how to move forward with making the program permanent.
The move comes two weeks after Santa Monica City Council instructed city staff to look into the feasibility of closing down portions of Main Street to traffic on weekends in an effort to facilitate more outdoor dining and retail.