April 22, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Mayor Bass Unveils Permanent Al Fresco Dining Program with Financial Support for Restaurants

Permanent Al Fresco Program Application Process is Now Open For All 

Mayor Karen Bass has announced the commencement of applications for the permanent Al Fresco outdoor dining program, allowing restaurant owners to continue offering outdoor dining options. Initially established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outdoor dining initiative has proven popular, leading the city to make it a permanent fixture. Alongside this announcement, Mayor Bass unveiled financial relief measures to support businesses in sustaining their participation in the program.

We previously reported on the city council vote on the measure that made this program possible after Westside restaurant Open Face Food Shop sent out a distress call asking food lovers to let the city council members know that they wanted the program to continue. 

In her statement, Mayor Bass emphasized the importance of this program as part of the city’s ongoing efforts to bolster small businesses, generate employment opportunities, and enhance the vibrancy of local neighborhoods. The move aims to assist restaurants, cafes, and eateries in navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic and beyond.

Christy Vega, owner of Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks, expressed enthusiasm for the permanent program, highlighting the potential positive impact on Los Angeles restaurants. Vega sees Al Fresco Dining as a significant win for the city, leveraging its favorable weather and scenic appeal to become the premier destination for outdoor dining in the nation.

Last year, Mayor Bass directed various departments to collaborate in developing the approved permanent program, with a focus on supporting small businesses and integrating them into policy development. According to a city survey of participating owners, 90% of businesses consider their outdoor dining area integral to their operations and identity, while 97% express interest in maintaining permanent outdoor dining spaces.

Businesses interested in participating in the permanent Al Fresco program can access information and resources through the Online Al Fresco Guide, including requirements, anticipated costs, and frequently asked questions. Assistance is also available through Al Fresco Assistance Helplines, City BusinessSource Centers, and Al Fresco Webinars held monthly from February to June 2024.

To ensure equal access for customers with disabilities in the Public Right-of-Way, business owners are encouraged to refer to the L.A. Al Fresco Disabled Access Toolkit. Chef Theresa Montaño, owner of Otoño restaurant in Highland Park, shared her positive experience with Al Fresco, describing it as a lifeline for her restaurant that brought vibrancy back to the streets post-COVID.

Small business owners applying for a revocable permit required for outdoor dining will automatically be considered for the Fee Relief Program. Early application is encouraged to avail the fee relief and allow sufficient time for processing and inspections. The Mayor’s fee relief program is expected to benefit approximately 1,800 small businesses in Los Angeles.

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