Community Waited Long for Al Fresco Dining

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Diners at Compagnon Wine Bistro on 7th Street ejoyed their meals al frsco on the first weekend after installation of k-rails in downtown San Pedro. Platforms will be installed to help provide level ground on sloping streets. Photo by Guillaume Zuili.

By James Preston Allen, Publisher and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

The San Pedro Property Owners Alliance, commonly referred to as the PBID, is now set to start constructing “parklet” dining platforms to compliment the newly opened sidewalk dining in the San Pedro Arts District, after Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino initially closed the streets for outside dining this past month.

This comes after many delays and some false starts that saw a temporary platform built in front of Compagnon Wine Bistro on 7th Street earlier. Now, starting on July 23, 15 restaurants have been approved to participate in this plan that is like many across the Los Angeles region to help restaurants remain viable during the pandemic.

As indoor dining has been canceled by government officials the only option for the local eateries is to create some kind of outside dining experience. The PBID is stepping in to provide support for this long held aspiration of the local restaurant industry.  In fact one owner said that, “the PBID is offering up to $9,000 in forgivable loans to any restaurant that participates and keeps open until September.”

This was confirmed by the PBID office this week, which explained that there were some “complications due to the COVID-19” but that they were starting construction soon.

The PBID went to all 15 participating restaurants and told them it had the authority to offer forgivable loans up to $9,000 and also had the authority to proceed with a standard design (very cost effective) for a parklets handrail with a cover around the k-rail and platform flushed with the sidewalk.

Choura Events signed a proposed contract with the PBID with the participating restaurants as third-party beneficiaries. The PBID would make the initial payment on the loan with each restaurant paying a little over  $1,000.

Choura Events is acquiring all of the materials and will begin staging the equipment on July 22.  The contractor was certified by the PBID on July 12. The PBID hopes to have the Al Fresco dining complete by July 29.

Until now, restaurateurs have had to improvise and/or turn outside patio spaces into full service dining while waiting for the city and PBID to act. Some complained that this plan should have already  been in place at the beginning of summer “not the middle of it.”

Yet, for some like James Brown of the San Pedro Brewing Co. this is his best shot at staying open under trying circumstances. Brown has contracted to take some 60 feet of street parking for this project that may get him close to 50% of his normal seating capacity, others much less so.

Outside or sidewalk dining has been a long term goal dating back at least two decades in San Pedro with its inclusion in the vision for the San Pedro Arts and Culture District, if not before. 

With so many people living here from all over the world where sidewalk dining is the norm not the exception one would have thought that this would have been accomplished years ago.

Yet, perhaps one of the side effects of this pandemic is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti using his emergency executive powers to lift city regulations. Like the homeless crisis perhaps it takes a crisis to solve long standing problems. It remains to be seen whether either the homeless shelter and outdoor dining will succeed but for now it’s a start.

 Tim McOsker, co-chair of the PBID’s economic recovery committee, explained that the agreement the PBID signed with the city stipulates that all outdoor dining will adhere strictly to city COVID-19 guidelines. What the PBID is aiming to do is make permanent the Al Fresco dining infrastructure and their permits for the foreseeable future.

“We cannot predict what will happen in the future,” McOsker said. “So we thought the best investment would be to build these platforms that are designed to comply with city standards and be permitted permanently.”

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