LA Council OKs music, alcohol sales under al fresco dining plan

Customers are seated at an outdoor table for Hachioji Craft Ramen restaurant on 1st St. in the Little Tokyo section of downtown Los Angeles. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee Tuesday approved amendments to the city's proposed al fresco ordinance that would allow music and further set standards for restaurants to sell alcohol in outdoor dining areas.

The 4-0 vote with Councilwoman Heather Hutt absent advances the proposal to the full Council for consideration at a future date.

The committee approved the Planning Department's recommendation to allow ambient music to a volume that would allow patrons to speak at a normal conversational level.

Any violations of the recommended standard would be enforced by the Los Angeles Police Department — with the goal of addressing noise impacts that might be caused by non-compliant outdoor dining operations.

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Live entertainment, dancing and pool tables, billiard tables and adult entertainment uses are prohibited in outdoor dining areas, according to Planning Department officials. Alfresco operations would also be allowed to operate Sunday through Thursday until 10:30 p.m. and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, if within 250 feet of a residential zone.

Restaurant owners who desire to have outdoor dining areas will also need to maintain their outdoor operations nightly and keep nearby sidewalk areas free of debris, litter and graffiti.

Outdoor dining areas will also need a city-issued identification that will be required to be posted and made visible to the public, indicating that the area is subject to standards of the proposed alfresco ordinance. The posting will include a telephone number and an email address for Angelenos to file complaints or concerns about outdoor dining areas.

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, a member of the PLUM Committee, noted the proposed alfresco ordinance is important to support businesses and recognized the need to provide programs assisting the recovery of businesses from the financial impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We also have to strike a balance when we talk about policymaking," Rodriguez said.

The Planning Department's recommendations further set standards when alcohol service is proposed for outdoor dining operations.

Employees will only be able to deliver and serve alcohol at tables, all patrons must be seated and only fixed or portable bars "not used as a point of sale" will be permitted in outdoor dining areas.

Councilwoman Traci Park introduced a motion Tuesday afternoon seeking to augment the proposed alfresco ordinance to focus on supporting coastal restaurants' outdoor dining operations.

Park's motion instructs the Planning Department and other related departments to prepare a report within 60 days on a process that allows "coastal restaurants to continue operating their alfresco patios without additional burdens and costly investments which restaurants in other parts of the city are not subject to."

"The alfresco program played a crucial role in sustaining local businesses, keeping restaurant doors open, and providing economic relief to struggling Angelenos," Park said in a statement.