An expansion of the outdoor dining area of Slater's 50/50 on Pier Plaza in Hermosa Beach was approved unanimously at the Tuesday Hermosa Beach City Council meeting.
Slater's 50/50, which replaced the iconic Mermaid restaurant/bar in 2018, will be able to expand the outdoor dining area by 702 square feet. In the six decades it was in business, the Mermaid never had outdoor seating.
Slater's can have 12 tables with 46 chairs for guests allowed in the outdoor dining area, which is required to close at 11 p.m., according to associate planner Nicole Ellis.
To counter parking issue concerns, Slater's agreed to “deactivate” indoor occupancy, reducing customers allowed inside from 103 to 65.
“The site area available for parking will be reduced, but the 25 total available parking spaces will be maintained and this is done through a very aggressive valet program... at all hours they're open,” said Ken Robertson, community development director, at the meeting.
According to Ellis, the 25 spaces will be maintained on site. A parking plan amendment was required to allow the use of an increased number of tandem parking spaces and valet parking services as a method of maintaining parking on-site.
Some of the councilmembers were concerned about placement of umbrellas that could cause “visual impacts” of the coastline. So Slater's agreed temporary umbrellas be available only upon customer request so they “do not create a solid permanent view barrier that would block public views,” according to Robertson. Also the umbrellas would be stored when not in use.
But Mayor Stacey Armato and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Campbell thought all of the umbrellas should be up during business hours, not just on request. Armato said while she supports the project “in all other ways,” it seemed “wonky” to have staff hall the umbrellas in and out of storage while serving the customers.
“I just know anecdotally, when we go to a restaurant and we want to sit outside, we want an umbrella. Whether it's a little drizzly or if it's sunny, it's nice to sit under an umbrella,” Armato said.
Campbell felt it was “weird and incomplete without umbrellas” and it “introduces a kind of complexity to the logistics of running a cafe or restaurant.”
Adam Eisenberg, vice president of acquisitions for Bolour Associates, Inc., which controls the Strand and Pier Holding Company, said they have spent almost a year and a half trying to get the project approved and that arguing over umbrellas blocking views was “extremely disappointing.”
“It's tough to survive down there as a tenant, especially in the winter and the main reason tenants can do that is when they are able to put in and invest significant amounts of money into their building,” Eisenberg said.
The location will some day make way for a hotel if the Strand and Pier Hotel project is approved by the city. In 2013, it and surrounding properties, were sold for $19.5 million to Strand and Pier Holding Company, LLC. A mixed-use project featuring a hotel, as well as restaurants and retail, might one day replace Slater's and adjacent businesses.
In 2018, Michael Nakleh's Elite Restaurant Group of Los Angeles signed a five-year lease at that location.
“It’s all about setting a precedent for a proposed hotel project... that we're bringing issues up and delaying an applicant that is willing to spend thousands of dollars in order to beautify a piece of this city because of a potential hypothetical impact on a proposed project,” Eisenberg said.
In the end, with no support from the other councilmembers, Armato and Campbell voted in favor of umbrellas to be available on customer request.
According to Ellis, there is no time table for the patio expansion. The applicant is required to submit plans for the city to review. They will then need to submit plans for California Coastal Commission review and they need to obtain an approved Coastal Development Plan prior to the city issuing building permits.