Downtown Manhattan Avenue closed off for outdoor dining

Diners enjoy a meal outside MB Post on Manhattan Avenue last weekend. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Mark McDermott

The City of Manhattan Beach will close off two blocks of Manhattan Avenue in order to enable more outdoor dining downtown, beginning February 12 and lasting indefinitely. 

The move comes after LA County last week allowed outdoor dining to resume following two months of closures due to the countywide surge in COVID-19 cases. But as part of the reopening, the county implemented new restrictions, including an increase in the space between tables from six feet to eight feet, a limit of six people (who must be from the same household) at any table, and an overall capacity of no more than 50 percent. 

Manhattan Avenue will be closed to traffic between 12th Street and Manhattan Beach Boulevard. By allowing more space, the city effectively increases the restaurants’ capacity. 

“The City is again taking a balanced approach to assisting our restaurants while ensuring health and safety of our community,” said Mayor Suzanne Hadley in a statement. “Closing Manhattan Avenue allows for more spacing, which is necessary to prevent crowding in an area that has lots of restaurants in close proximity.” 

The Center Street alley between the two blocks will remain open to east-west traffic. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, City Manager Bruce Moe noted that new restrictions include that servers must wear both face masks and shields and diners are required to wear masks when servers approach tables, and keep the masks on until food or drinks are served. Moe said the city would evaluate the effectiveness of the new set-up before making further decisions. 

“We will be evaluating that throughout that weekend into the early part of the next week to see how it goes, what the effectiveness is, and see what the effects are by way of traffic,” Moe said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how that works, and opening up some more space for people to enjoy the great outdoors…. It’s important that people follow the new rules that the county has put out to reduce the spread of the virus and avoid, frankly, future closures of outdoor dining. If everybody can cooperate with these rules, it’ll make it go more smoothly.” 

Councilperson Steve Napolitano, who along with Councilperson Richard Montgomery is on the ad hoc committee, tasked with helping local businesses weather the pandemic, asked local residents concerned about traffic impacts to be patient. 

We take to heart what their concerns are, but we’re trying to balance things out with our needs to help out our businesses, as well,” Napolitano said. “It might require some new habits to be formed, but we’re leaving things open and accessible as much as possible, and we’ll be monitoring and checking in…. We’ll make adjustments along the way if we need to.” 

“Everyone please have an open mind,” Montgomery said. “We’re trying to be patient with our ideas here. Give it the chance to work.” 

Mike Simms, a restaurant owner and president of the Downtown Business Association, said that the resumption of outdoor dining has been an enormous lift. 

“Outdoor dining is a game changer for us,” Simms said in an interview. “We are finally paying our bills. The spacing of eight feet between tables really hurt us, though. That’s why we are so appreciative of the city closing down extra parking and part of Manhattan Avenue to let us get more tables.”

Hadley said the expansion in outdoor dining will be just in time for the three day weekend of President’s Day. 

“And in time for Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Make your reservations. Absolutely shop local, dine local.” 

Moe reported that another council initiative, a $250,000 low-interest loan program for local small businesses, has already received 15 applications after launching last week. 

“Finance has reviewed the first batch and the first checks will likely go out the middle of this next week,” he said. “We’re happy to report we’ve had about $115,000 in requests made to this point.” 

For additional information or questions regarding the City’s loan program, interested businesses may reach out by email at covidloans@citymb.info. ER 

 

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Written by: Mark McDermott

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