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Manhattan Beach Agrees to Continue Outdoor Dining Decks Through 2021

Aug 27, 2021 09:48AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach City Council has agreed to allow restaurants to continue using their temporary outdoor dining decks until the beginning of 2022.

As agreed to at Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the city will extend the " temporary encroachment permits" issued under COVID-19 Emergency Orders until January 3, 2022. The council also agreed to discuss the issue at its first December meeting to take stock of what the community's needs are at that time.

The outdoor dining decks have become a flashpoint for debate during the COVID pandemic. Many residents and diners have embraced outdoor dining as part of a "new normal" and choose open-air dining as a safer alternative to gathering indoors. Restaurant owners say that having the dining decks allows them to stay in business at a time when many customers are still wary about dining in a restaurant.

Yet some downtown residents and those near the dining decks have complained about noise, trash, lack of parking availability, and traffic gridlock that can create a safety issue.

Currently, 28 businesses are using temporary encroachment permits, meaning that they are taking up leasable area on the sidewalk or street, or taking over parking spaces. A total of 71 parking spaces (64 of which are in downtown Manhattan Beach) have been taken over for outdoor seating.

(Last month, the dining decks on Ocean Ave. belonging to Rock'N Fish and The Strand House were removed to make way for large-scale events including the Surf Festival and the AVP Manhattan Beach Open.)

All told, the city has waived a total of $886,618 in revenue and lease fees to allow the restaurants to take over the spaces. 

Despite questions about how long the city can continue to support the dining decks, the council appeared willing to continue the effort for now - and by doing so, to keep Manhattan Beach in line with other cities that are making similar allowances.

"This isn’t about fees in the city," said Manhattan Beach Mayor Suzanne Hadley at the meeting. "This is about keeping people spread out. The city, the county, and the state agree that outdoor dining is good for public safety. It helps keep people healthy."

The council had already agreed to waive outdoor usage fees through Labor Day. At Tuesday night's meeting, council members directed city staff to return with a proposed formula for a “nominal but reasonable” fee for the encroachment spaces.

Council members also requested that city staff initiate a Work Plan item to consider possible long-term use of the public right-of-way for outdoor dining and business use.

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