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Manhattan Beach Approves Reductions to Outdoor Dining Decks

Oct 10, 2021 11:46AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach City Council has voted to trim back outdoor restaurant dining decks that are located in front of other storefronts, in advance of the busy holiday retail season.

The council agreed, 5-0, to begin reduction of temporary encroachment areas in front of occupied or vacant non-restaurant storefronts, effective November 1, 2021.

A proposal to reduce the footprint of the dining decks first came from the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professionals Association (DBPA). While not all of its members agreed with the proposal, leaders of the organization said that it was the right thing to do for the sake of the retailers and professionals whose storefront visibility had been blocked by dining decks.

"This is an important step forward to acknowledge and amend the sacrifices our retailers and service businesses have made over the last 18 months. Decreasing deck sizes will begin addressing our organization’s concerns about blocking the visual sight line to a business from the street or sidewalk, and also provide some of the much needed parking to return in time for our busy holiday season," wrote DBPA President (and restaurant owner) Mike Simms and DBPA Executive Director Jill Lamkin in a letter to City Council last month.

Not all of the restaurant members of the organization agreed with the proposal (by one count, approximately 16 restaurants were in favor of the idea and five were opposed), but the organization had nevertheless decided to move forward with the proposal.

Lamkin explained to the council on Tuesday that at the beginning of the pandemic, the non-restaurant businesses had agreed that they would sacrifice street visibility to help the restaurants, with the intent that eventually decks would be coming back down to only in front of the restaurants. Now, more than a year later, the sentiment is growing that it is time to reclaim those storefronts, she said.

"We polled all of our restaurant owners, and we had a majority of restaurant owners who support this, including the ones who had the greatest impact in terms of reduction number of seats," said Lamkin. "The rest of membership is incredibly overwhelmingly supportive that this would happen, that the dining decks would be reduced by November 1."

Lamkin noted: "The value of a parking space is more than just the two dollars an hour. It is the ability for a person to come and park in that parking place and visit multiple businesses downtown."

Yet Dario Vullo, owner of Nando Trattoria, said that it was too soon to reduce the size of the decks, especially when so many patrons continue to want only outdoor dining. "Listen to our voices as small business owners that we are still really suffering," he told the council. "Shrinkage [of the decks] is going to lead to layoffs, and laying off people is not the right thing to do right now."

Simms, whose own deck at Simmzy's would be reduced under the plan, noted that there were "countless hours behind the scenes" spent trying to negotiate an equitable plan for everyone. 

"I see it as a step in finding equilibrium among the stakeholders in Manhattan Beach," he said, adding, "Going into COVID was rough-and-tumble-y, and going out of COVID will be rough-and-tumble-y."

In the North End of Manhattan Beach, the existing dining decks are all in front of the restaurants they serve so they will not be affected by the proposal.

Manhattan Beach Dining Decks

Currently within Manhattan Beach there are 27 outdoor dining decks, using up 71 public metered parking spaces being used. The city is foregoing parking meter and ticket revenue for those spaces.

The city has agreed to extend use of the dining decks in the public right-of-way through January 3, 2022. However, last month the City Council approved a plan to charge $1 per square foot for those temporary outdoor dining spaces that are in the public right-of-way.

In addition, the city’s Special Events Committee has determined that the dining decks on Manhattan Beach Boulevard west of Manhattan Avenue and on Ocean Drive (The Strand House, Rock'N Fish, and Shellback Tavern) will need to be removed in advance of the holiday fireworks event in mid-December.

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