City looks at future of outdoor dining

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Avalon officials wait to see what rules are come June 15

City officials are waiting to see what the state rules for restaurant dining will look like after June 15.

The City Council discussed the future of outdoor dining during the week’s council meeting. Staff recommended reducing (but not eliminating) outdoor dining even as local restrictions have eased.

Administrative Analyst Devin Hart, who presented the staff report, said the city needs to accommodate visitors who want to use the beach for recreation.

Council members agreed to wait and see what the new rules will be.

According to new reports, Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to ease or lift many pandemic restrictions on that date. Details are unclear.

However, both Councilmember Lisa Lavelle and City Manager Denise Radde indicated they could not get clear answers on whether restaurants would be allowed to return to 100% capacity indoor seating in mid-June.

Council direction, summarized by Radde, was no lunch on the beach on Memorial Day weekend and no lunches on the beach after June 15.

For now, no fees. Staff has proposed either a fee per each table on the beach or a fee based on square footage. The per-table seemed to have the most support, but no formal vote was taken.

Hart pointed out that the county was in the Yellow Tier, with up to 50% indoor dining, so staff was suggesting that businesses that have dining on the beach to reduce their outdoor seating by half.

Hart said staff recommended allowing outdoor dining with special event permits, so it be occasional. State Alcoholic Beverage Control Department and Los Angeles County Public Health Department permits would supersede city permits.

She said going forward, the city would require local businesses to provide documentation.

According to Hart, staff proposed eliminating all outdoor dining on city beaches and public rights-of-way along Catalina, Sumner, and Crescent Avenue between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. No setting up before 5:30 p.m.

She said the city would allow outdoor dining on specific cays set by the council. Specific dates would not be available, such as July 4, Memorial Day, and summer weekends.

She said there would be a limit on the number of permits available to each business.

Staff proposed 10 tables per business. The staff proposal would allow the tables to turn over as often as possible without the city charging additional fees.

She said the charges could be passed onto guests.

Hart presented the council with two possible fee structures: $20 per table or a fee based on square footage. According to Hart, the standard Avalon lease uses $3.25 per square foot.

She said the calculation of a fee based on square footage would be more difficult to ether enforce or audit.

Councilmember Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy wanted confirmation that staff was expecting all restrictions to be lifted June 15.

According to Radde, staff was assuming all restrictions would be lifted—but they didn’t know.

Councilmember Lisa Lavelle said she had asked county staff for the same information.

But Lavelle said county officials would not say that there would be no restrictions at all or fewer restrictions.

Mayor Anni Marshall said: “I would like to see some form of outdoor dining be maintained.”

She said she was not sure about the size or scope. She favored dinner-only eating on Avalon sand parks.

Marshall said she had no problem with some activity on Crescent, even in the daytime, perhaps with limited lunchtime eating.

She favored some sort of fee schedule.

Lavelle said she favored allowing outdoor dining without fees as long as there was a restriction on indoor dining.

She said she expected restrictions would be changed to 75% capacity on June 15 and to 100% a few weeks later.

Lavelle said she would love to see outdoor dining continue for diner after restaurants were allowed 100% indoor dining. She wasn’t sure about lunch dining.

However, Fire Chief Michael Alegria said the city needed to look at the number of tables when restaurants to 80% to 100% indoor dining.

Cassidy’s feelings were in line with Lavelle’s remarks. She favored a limited number of tables for outdoor dining.

She also favored per-table fees. Cassidy said she liked outdoor dining through the season, an apparent reference to the visitor season.

Cassidy said she was not in favor of outdoor eating at lunchtime.

She said she liked shifting the time for outdoor dining to after 6 p.m.

Steve Bray of Steve’s Steakhouse [?] spoke in favor of outdoor dining. He said the city had “created a monster” by allowing outdoor dining. He said everyone comes over to dine on the beach.

He also pointed out that there is no traffic on the beach at night.

Bray said he supported per-table fees.

Councilmember Michael Ponce said they had to wait until they could see what played out on June 15.

Marshall asked if it should be business as usual, with no fee? She suggested a special meeting if it was necessary.

“The decisions we make would have to depend on whatever the governor does and we adjust accordingly,” Ponce said.