A Los Angeles city program to help restaurants stay in business during the pandemic has quietly been put on hold, the NBC4 I-Team has learned.
Some restaurants tell NBC4 they were depending on that program to stay open.
“It would have allowed us to at least make enough money to cover our expenses and pay some of our rent, said Vianey Sanderson owner of the Down and Out Restaurant and Bar on Spring Street in DTLA.
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In late June, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced phase 2 of the city’s “Al Fresco Program,” during which the LA Department of Transportation would issue temporary permits to restaurants to set up more outdoor tables including in lanes of the street. The city would also pay thousands of dollars per restaurant to set up barriers to separate tables in the street from cars.
“We’re...empowering restaurants to set up outdoor dining on curbsides and closed streets,” Garcetti said in June.
But the I-Team obtained LADOT correspondence that says the program is on pause.
“We are not able to approve on-street dining options for the Al Fresco Program” the correspondence says, adding “there is no official statement at this time” about that.
The I-Team also confirmed that the vast majority of LA restaurants which applied for on-street dining permits did not get them.
“There was an announcement of the program, but the program, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to actually exist,“ said Jacob Van Horn—a consultant who helps restaurants get permits from the city.
Van Horn showed the I-Team correspondence with LADOT, in which a supervisor says, “due to overwhelming demand for this program, we have exhausted our initial allocation of resources."
Restaurant owners who had been hoping for a permit from the Al Fresco program now say they might have to go out of business.
“I hate to say it, but for the first time in my life I’ve had to consider personal bankruptcy, “said Vianey Sanderson, owner of the Down and Out restaurant.
After the I-Team started asking questions, the Mayor’s office told NBC4 it is looking for new funding sources to resume issuing the Phase 2 outdoor dining permits, but didn’t say when approvals for new applications would start again.