MB outdoor dining

The city of Manhattan Beach has allowed the repurposing of outdoor dining spots to public right-of-way and general public seating, as a workaround to the county's dining ban. Simmzy's is one of the restaurants that filed the application and was able to relinquish their patio dining area back to the city, in Manhattan Beach on Friday, December 4, 2020. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

People looking to get out of the house for a bit could begin eating takeout food at some of Manhattan Beach’s outdoor dining spots, now designated public seating areas, on Friday, Dec. 4, city officials said — despite that potentially violating Los Angeles County’s ban on in-person dining.

Manhattan Beach on Thursday responded to a recent countywide ban on all in-person dining by announcing it would repurpose outdoor decks — which they initially set up in the public right-of-way to help restaurants serve customers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered indoor dining for much of the year — by converting them into seating parklets. Under the city’s new policy, folks can get takeout from restaurants, carry their food to those spots and enjoy a meal.

But when the city first set up the dining decks months ago, officials required restaurants to sign an agreement before using them. The new policy, likewise, requires those same restaurants to amend their agreements with the city before the decks can open for public seating, Community Development Director Carrie Tai said via email Friday. Then, the city will post signs letting folks know the seating areas are open.

Some of those public seating areas in the city were ready to use on Friday, including outside Simmzy’s, a gastropub on Manhattan Beach Boulevard.

This despite county health officials saying, in a Thursday statement, that all outdoor dining was banned.

“Customers may enter restaurants to purchase their take-out orders, but are not allowed to sit in congregant areas to dine outside of the establishments,” the county’s Department of Public Health said in a written statement Thursday evening. “Chairs and tables should be removed from outdoor spaces or clearly marked as restricted (with caution tape or signs for example) by the business owner.”

City officials, though, have said the new policy follows county guidelines, with the outdoor areas essentially extensions of other public seating, such as benches along The Strand and chairs in the Metlox Plaza.

“We are confident our new outdoor seating areas comply with current LA County guidelines,” Mayor Suzanne Hadley said via email Friday. “We will continue to evaluate the situation in case things change.”

Residents, Hadley said, are expected to follow the posted rules and regulations — including no smoking or drinking alcohol, and cleaning the area before leaving —  and dine at their own risk.

Besides wearing face coverings and adhering to social distancing regulations, the city said, rules for public seating include:

  • No reservation of seating;
  • No smoking or vaping;
  • Trash must be thrown away in receptacles;
  • No alcohol;
  • No disorderly conduct or noise; and
  • No littering or sleeping overnight.

“The city will work diligently to keep visitors and residents following the rules on the new outdoor seating,” the mayor said. “We will have enforcement out and about as usual and to the best of our ability.”

Mike Simms, the owner of Simmzy’s and other Manhattan Beach restaurants, said his company was moving quickly to modify its outdoor dining permits.

“All of our restaurants’ permits have been modified,” Simms, whose Simms Restaurant Group runs five eateries in the city, said via text message Friday. “We’re starting with Simmzy’s and should have the others rolled out by (Friday night or Saturday).”

Despite uncertainty surrounding whether Manhattan Beach’s new policy violates county health guidelines, the workaround could spread.

Redondo Beach will consider doing the same thing at its next meeting, set for Tuesday, Dec. 8, said Mayor Bill Brand.

“Like every city with outdoor dining,” Brand said in a Friday phone interview, “we’re looking for some way to continue it if it is safe and compliant with the latest county order.”

Hermosa Beach, meanwhile, is not considering turning their dining patios into public seating, said city spokesperson Laura Mecoy.

The county, in its Thursday statement, said there would be consequences for violating the health order.

“Failure to enact measures that restrict outdoor dining,” the county said, “may result in citations and possibly other penalties for the responsible property owner.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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