LOS ANGELES,CA – Responding to the struggles of restaurant owners and operators in the economic downturn and rules from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles City Council advanced more than thirty recommendations to streamline various City processes impacting local restaurants and other food and beverage outlets. These measures authored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield will help existing restaurants modify their conditions or add services, and should help them keep their doors open and workers employed.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blumenfield recognized that the restaurant industry would be heavily impacted by public health orders and would face a difficult recovery. He authored a motion that directed the Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) to convene meetings between various city departments and industry representatives to identify low-cost or no-cost changes to city processes and requirements to eliminate unnecessary red tape affecting the food and beverage industry.
“With COVID-19, it is not business as usual. Restaurants and other businesses have been doing everything possible to stay afloat, make payroll and keep their lights and stoves on - we need to make it easier to stay in business in LA,” said Blumenfield. “Sadly, many of these local businesses may still fail, and we need to do better for the next generation of entrepreneurs who dream of opening their own place.”
“With the decimation of the restaurant community due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurants are in dire need of any government support and regulatory relief,” said David Juarez, Director of Local Government Affairs for the CA Restaurant Association. “The measure authored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield will assist in accelerating the reopening of restaurants- once the state Stay-at-Home order lifts and the County allows restaurants to resume on-site dining- and look to the future by easing the path for new restaurants to open in the city.”
John & Kate Saffell, owners of Nicola’s Kitchen in Blumenfield’s district said, “Like nearly all restaurants in Los Angeles County, and across our nation, our lovely little Mom & Pop establishment of 30 years, Nicola's Kitchen, is barely hanging in there. Our biggest concern is the welfare of our amazing employees that have been with us for years and continue to work hard every day as truly front line workers. These are important reforms and we pray for any assistance Councilmember Blumenfield can provide to all the small businesses in LA County that are hurting so badly.”
The EWDD working group identified dozens of avenues to explore that would make it easier and faster for business owners to open new restaurants and modify existing spaces. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the industry nationwide will lose five to seven million employees and $225 billion in the next three years. Without intervention to help the industry, many more restaurants will not survive this pandemic. In the over twenty page report presented by EWDD, General Manager Carolyn Hull outlined many policy changes. This includes asking:
LA Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) to consider ‘self-certification’ for simple projects and tenant improvements, bringing LA in line with other major cities like Chicago and New York.
City Planning (DCP) to provide building permit clearance when an entitlement request has no impact on the physical construction. (such as a when a restaurant requests for permission to serve beer and wine has no impact physical building)
LADBS, DCP, the Fire Department and the Department of Water and Power to make it easier to submit applications and plans, schedule inspections, and allow various service requests to proceed concurrently rather than consecutively.
Various departments consider making permanent many of the programs adopted as temporary measures during the pandemic, including the Al Fresco outdoor dining program.
Many other recommendations can be found here as well as more information on the working group and background on the goals.
Moving forward, some recommendations won’t need another full council vote and can be implemented internally while others may need further reports and ordinances drafted.