LA Might Allow Restaurants to Serve You at Tables in Streets, Alleys, and Parking Lots

NBC Universal, Inc.

Several Los Angeles politicians are pushing the idea of allowing struggling restaurants to set up tables -- spaced at least six feet apart -- on sidewalks, in closed-off streets, in parking lots and in alleys.

"When you give the street back to the people, folks will come," said LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who authored one of three motions introduced in the council championing temporary dining in public spaces as a lifeline to save restaurants during the pandemic.

Buscaino says LA already allows streets to be closed off for farmers markets and for the popular bicycling events known as CicLAvia, so why not for restaurant seating as well.

But some restaurant owners say the idea won't be easy for city leaders to execute.

"Our leaders aren't restaurant people, and they have no idea," says Steve Cohen owner of Village Pizzeria in Larchmont Village. The last month, he's only been open two days a week and just for curbside pick up.

Cohen would like to be able to offer table service again, but he says he's not sure customers will return if it means eating in the streets.

"Do you want to be out at a table and chair on the street, if the cars are coming, the birds pooping, people sneezing all around you," Cohen told NBCLA.


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Councilman Buscaino says streets could be closed off to allow restaurant seating in numerous parts of LA, including San Pedro, Hollywood, West LA, and Larchmont Village.

"My motion is going to expedite the permitting to allow business owners ... the opportunity to use public spaces," Buscaino said.

His motion will be voted on possibly next week. Last night, the Long Beach City Council approved a similar proposal that would allow closing off some streets so restaurants could set up tables outside, with social distancing.

Other cities have already begun allowing restaurants to place tables out in the street with social distancing. And in Amsterdam, one restaurant is even experimenting with tables outside, enclosed in tiny greenhouse-like structures to keep customers apart from each other.

Village Pizzeria owner Cohen says the city of LA will need to give restaurants strict guidelines how to safely serve customers in public spaces. "If you're serving outside, are we no longer allowed to use utensils and plates and glasses, will we have to use to-go packaging at tables?" Cohen wondered.

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