It was yet another blustery opening for Manhattan Beach’s outdoor dining.
A two-block stretch of Manhattan Avenue, a major thoroughfare downtown, was closed to traffic beginning Friday, Feb. 12, to give restaurants along that street more space for outdoor dining during the coronavirus pandemic. The city announced the move last week and worked hard to put barricades and signs in place before opening this weekend.
But the weather didn’t exactly cooperate on the first day of the closure.
Friday’s lunch crowd was met with chilly temperatures and winds up to 20 mph after overnight rain.
But that didn’t stop diner Chris Day, who enjoyed lunch outside of Fishing with Dynamite.
“The street closure is awesome,” Day said. “They should do more streets.”
Manhattan Beach has spent much of the pandemic trying to help restaurants and retailers in the small beach city. The city derives much of its income from pricey stores and restaurants downtown.
But the winter weather and county officials cracking down on some city initiatives have hindered those attempts recently.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom, for example, lifted the state’s regional stay-at-home order in January, clearing the way for outdoor dining to begin again, there was a hail storm that blanketed the sands.
And, in early December, after the county and state shutdown outdoor dining amid a surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Manhattan Beach turned its dining decks into public seating areas. The city said that policy was a workaround for the county order because folks could order takeout and then sit in those public areas.
But county health officials said the policy still violated the ban on outdoor dining and ordered four ordered Manhattan Beach restaurants to stop.
The city ultimately suspended that policy in early January as the statewide surge also hit Manhattan Beach — with cases in the town nearly doubling in two months.
City officials, though, said they are hopeful this two-block closure will provide relief for the restaurant business and bring people downtown again. But, they’ll have to deal with an increase in traffic on streets running parallel to Manhattan Avenue.
With the street closed, residents should expect a higher volume of traffic on the cross street, Manhattan Beach Boulevard, which leads to the pier, city traffic engineer Erik Zandvliet said in a Friday email.
Zandvliet estimated that the Manhattan Avenue closure will divert about 5,000 vehicles per day to other streets.
“The City has posted message boards on all approaches to advise drivers of the special event closure,” he said, “and is adjusting traffic signal timing to accommodate the extra traffic.”
Manhattan Beach officials have said they will evaluate the impact after this first weekend and determine if any changes are needed.
Restaurants that’ll benefit from the street closure include Fishing with Dynamite, Tacolicious, SLAY Steak and Fish House, MB Post and Nando Trattoria. SLAY, Nando and MB Post currently offer outdoor dining for dinner only.