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Restaurants concerned about potential regulations on outdoor dining

Proposed ordinance looks to place costly regulations on outdoor dining
Proposed ordinance looks to place costly regulations on outdoor dining 03:14

The city of Los Angeles' pandemic-inspired al fresco dining program — which saved many restaurants from closing — is going away. 

Councilmembers hope that a proposed city ordinance will take its place, however, some restaurants are concerned about the costly new regulations. 

The city had let restaurants like Six Chow House circumvent the rules but now it wants to require these restaurants to reapply and go through the right channels to keep these patios open.

"We just added this during the pandemic which has increased our revenue [two] fold," said Everett Larios, general manager and chef of Six Chow House. 

Larios helped build the outdoor dining area at his restaurant in October 2020, following months of being closed. 

"We had to lay off a lot of staff and I went with no pay just so my kitchen staff could be employed during those months," said Larios. "The moment we could open the patio up we did not hesitate."

Larios said that the patio wasn't cheap, costing him over $25,000 to build it. The city's emergency al fresco dining program allowed him to easily bypass a lot of the permits and get it done quickly. 

However, the emergency order is expiring and a newly proposed ordinance would require any restaurant looking to use their private property for outdoor dining to apply for the right permits under the new program.

"Right now, L.A. City is proposing an ordinance that would kill outdoor dining," said Casa Vega's owner Christy Vega and also represents the Los Angeles area for the California Restaurant Association.

Vega said she spent $300,000 to remodel her outdoor patio and the new fees would total about $100,000.

"I think it should be struck down, everything struck down," said Vega. "I think, keep what's in place permanent."

The city's planning department said it is listening to concerns and will refine the ordinance to what best suits businesses. 

"We're doing everything in our powers to expeditiously advance these efficiencies to give small businesses owners a leg up by cutting through the red tape," the department said in a statement. 

Larios said he'll do everything in his power to keep the patio. 

"We will fight a little hard to make sure it stays with us," said Larios. 

The planning department scheduled a 6 p.m. virtual public hearing on Wednesday. Following the meeting, the proposed ordinance will be sent to the City Planning Commission for their recommendation. To finalize and adopt the ordinance, the City Council must pass it. 

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