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City Council: Outdoor Dining Decks Coming Down

Jan 18, 2023 11:55AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The former outdoor dining deck at Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach - Photo via Fishing with Dynamite.

Time's up for the temporary outdoor dining decks in Manhattan Beach.

The Manhattan Beach City Council voted, 5-0, on Tuesday night to end the use of the temporary decks on February 28. Restaurants will have 10 days after that to remove them. 

The decision came because California's COVID-19 state of emergency is scheduled to end on February 28, and the city had tied its emergency orders allowing temporary use of the public right-of-way to that date. 

At Tuesday night's meeting, the council heard from both restaurants and residents who pleaded for an extension of the outdoor dining decks, as well as residents who said that it was time for them to come down.

Despite the vote to end the temporary decks, councilmembers all expressed a desire to create a permanent and cohesive plan to allow for a return to outdoor dining.

The city is organizing an Outdoor Dining Task Force, for which it will seek at-large members from the public. The city is expected to release applications in the second week of February and continue accepting them through February 28. 

Currently, 26 Manhattan Beach establishments are taking advantage of public right-of-way spaces through outdoor dining decks, taking up 57 public parking spaces, according to city staff. (An additional 16 establishments offer sidewalk dining, for which they pay $3 per square foot per month. That sidewalk dining is not part of the temporary COVID-19 program and is not ending on February 28.)

"The Time Has Come"

The city heard from multiple local restaurateurs that the dining decks were extremely popular, drew customers who might be reluctant to eat inside, and created a vibrant community that drew both locals and out-of-town visitors.

But councilmembers emphasized that the dining decks were not designed or built to be permanent additions to the city. 

"When we did the deal with every single restaurant, it included the word 'temporary,' said Mayor Pro Tem Richard Montgomery. "That temporary part is over. We’re not kicking the can down the road anymore. It’s time." 

Adding that he wanted to move forward on a permanent outdoor dining plan, he said, "Let's do the right thing, but do it the right way."

Mayor Steve Napolitano added that he didn't necessarily see the future outdoor dining plan being a "one for one replacement" for what is out there now.

There are many different ways to re-imagine how the streets and sidewalks can be used, he said. For example, removing "impediments" such as parking meters (and replacing them with pay stations) would create more room on the sidewalks. 

Napolitano also rejected the notion that the city should ignore state and local requirements.

"We’re not an island. We’re not our own nation. We have to work within the confines of the rules and regulations that apply to us," he said. "We’re going to do that as best we can, as fast we can, but there’s always been a time when these decks were going to come down."

Outdoor Dining Timeline

Restaurants have faced the challenge of an ever-changing set of policies and regulations throughout the pandemic.

MB News has had regular and ongoing coverage of the issue. A timeline of developments in outdoor dining deck discussion is as follows:

  • February 23, 2021: Manhattan Ave. re-opens to vehicular traffic.
  • October 5, 2021: City Council agrees to scale back dining decks to allow retailers to reclaim access to their storefronts.
  • September 20, 2022: City Council agrees to continue waiver of maximum dining occupancy limits.

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