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LA businesses can now apply to Al Fresco program for permanent outdoor dining

Outdoor dining in Westwood is pictured. As of Feb. 1, businesses can apply for the permanent Al Fresco outdoor dining program, as well as financial assistance to help with the transition to the program. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Gabrielle Siegel

Feb. 26, 2024 5:56 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 27 at 8:48 p.m.

Businesses can now apply for the permanent Al Fresco outdoor dining program and financial assistance to help business owners transition to the program, Mayor Karen Bass announced Feb. 1.

Former Mayor Eric Garcetti established the Al Fresco program in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow restaurants to continue operating through outdoor dining areas, with the program overriding existing city regulations including the zoning and municipal codes.

Prior to the Al Fresco program, there was not a significant presence of outdoor dining in Westwood, said Megan Furey, the director of programs and partnerships for the Westwood Village Improvement Association.

“This is a whole new era … that brings that European feel,” Furey said. “We’re in California – we have this amazing weather, so it’s nice to have that nice outdoor feel.”

In December, the Los Angeles City Council adopted the updated Al Fresco Ordinance to grant permanent outdoor dining permits under the program. The ordinance revised aspects of LA’s zoning code and streamlined regulations for restaurant owners seeking to install outdoor dining in private property areas such as plazas, patios and parking lots.

Changes made by the ordinance also include allowing private events in outdoor areas and allowing background music in outdoor dining areas with a permit.

Lamonica’s NY Pizza in Westwood will apply for the permanent program, said general manager Alan Perez. He said the restaurant has used the temporary program since 2020 and that it has helped the business expand its seating capacity.

“It (Al Fresco) definitely helped us out, especially on summer days or days where you don’t want a lot of people in here,” Perez said. “Especially after 2020, a lot of people felt weird being so close to each other, so it definitely helped us expand that.”

The outdoor dining program has been beneficial for both restaurants and the community in Westwood, said Dana Slatkin, the owner and founder of Violet L.A., in an emailed statement.

“Having folks dining outside is just a huge upgrade to any neighborhood,” Slatkin said in the statement. “Outside Violet, it activates our entire block, which has historically been pretty sleepy. Having families with their dogs, couples, older generations and neighbors gather together gives the street a very convivial, neighborly vibe.”

Slatkin said in the statement that while she is excited to transition into the permanent outdoor seating, the process of meeting the conditions to be approved for the permanent program has been complicated. She added that she has tried to meet with a city consultant but that they keep canceling on her.

Upside Down LA, a coffee shop and community center on Le Conte Avenue, is currently in the process of applying for the permanent Al Fresco permit, said director Isaac Brickner.

When the Al Fresco program first started, Upside Down LA had just a few chairs outside but eventually built a more permanent wooden structure with hanging lights when it was able to expand into the street, Brickner said. He added that as the program becomes permanent, Upside Down LA plans to add more outdoor furniture.

He said the outdoor dining has been both delightful and challenging.

“During warmer months when people like to congregate outside anyway, it’s added a whole new dynamic to not only regular cafe service but our capacity to do special events as well,” Brickner said.

However, he said one issue with the program involves maintaining the outdoor seating according to the standards of the establishment, as the public has access to the space throughout the day.

Brickner added that the Al Fresco program is in line with a movement he sees in urban planning to create more outdoor communal spaces.

“People’s personal bubble in LA is the size of their car, and I feel like eradicating that is a big part of creating a more flourishing society,” he said.

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Gabrielle Siegel
Siegel is a 2023-2024 slot editor. She was previously a 2022-2023 Copy staff member and has contributed to News, Sports, Prime and Photo. She is also a fourth-year communication and Spanish student from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
Siegel is a 2023-2024 slot editor. She was previously a 2022-2023 Copy staff member and has contributed to News, Sports, Prime and Photo. She is also a fourth-year communication and Spanish student from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
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