West Hollywood’s ‘OUT Zone’ Program Helps Businesses Open Up Safely Outside

The Fiesta Cantina OUT Zone area when it was under construction.

Dining tables and chairs were placed in parking spaces in front of the Fiesta Cantina restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard today, the latest installation in the City of West Hollywood’s “OUT Zone” program.

Fiesta Cantina, which is at 8865 Santa Monica Blvd., just west of Larrabee, is one of more than 60 local businesses that have received permits to create outdoor use temporary zones (OUT Zones).  The program was created to help business continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, when restaurants, barbershops, gyms and other “non-essential” businesses aren’t able to invite patrons inside.

Tara Worden, business development analyst with the City of West Hollywood, who is working on the project, said phase one of the OUT Zone installations is happening around in other areas of the city today. It involves installing safety barricades called k-rails to safely separate dining patrons from the vehicles in the travel lane.

“Phase two of installs are scheduled for mid-September, and we are currently working on the list of businesses interested in hosting the space in front of their storefront,” Worden said. “We are hoping that word catches and businesses find it helpful during this time of restricted indoor operations.”

Worden said the the program is set to last a least one year, “as businesses will likely need to use outdoor space to operate into the foreseeable future. There is no fee for the installation or rental of the k-rail, and businesses that use the space provided must get a … OUT Zone permit to use the space, for which the fee has been waived. Restaurants and retail are able to use the space, and eventually bars, once they are permitted to open outdoor operations.”

“We’re taking extensive steps to support residents and businesses with solutions that protect health and safety by turning things…inside out!” the city says in a description of the program on its website.

The OUT Zone program allows local businesses to use the public right of way, which includes sidewalk areas and, in the case of Fiesta Cantina, parking spaces. Fiesta Cantina already has an outdoor dining area, but because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions it no longer can use its indoor dining area. The OUT Zone area helps temporarily replace that. Businesses can also apply for a permit to use a private outdoor area, like a private parking lot, that hasn’t previously been used for dining or shopping or personal services. 

Outdoor dining zone created in front of Fiesta Cantina on Santa Monica Boulevard. (Photo courtesy of Larry Block)

The businesses do have to comply with the L.A. County Health Department’s COVID-19 safety standards. So a restaurant wanting to serve food on an outside sidewalk must erect a barrier — typically a large plastic wall — between the diners and those passing by on the sidewalk. Outdoor dining in parking lots and other private areas is permitted if there is at least six feet between each dining table.

The Abbey Road

Gyms and fitness centers such as Brick Nation and Sweat Yoga on Santa Monica Boulevard and Equinox on Sunset have received OUT Zone permits to operate outside, with most of them using adjacent private parking areas. Barbers also are working on the sidewalk, which is somewhat of a relief for those who have been complaining on social media about not being able to get a haircut during the pandemic. The Block Party, which sells gay-themed apparel, has obtained an OUT Zone permit to sell on the sidewalk, as has Yogurt Stop.

The city’s website shows that 19 restaurants have received and are operating with OUT Zone permits so far.  The Abbey on Robertson Boulevard has expanded with an outdoor dining area that it calls The Abbey Road and is in the alley between its Chapel section and the PUMP restaurant.  Connie and Ted’s has turned its large parking lot facing Santa Monica Boulevard into an outdoor dining area.  Hugo’s, which already has an outdoor dining area along Kings Road, is expanding into the parking lot behind it.  Pure Vita Pizza on Santa Monica Boulevard puts out tables on the sidewalk every afternoon with plastic shields behind them to serve its customers.

A number of other restaurants have expanded outdoors without having to obtain the OUT zone permit (they aren’t using public property). Barney’s Beanery has erected a large wooden platform in the adjacent parking where customers can drink and dine. And the Den on Sunset has created its own patio parking lot. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce lists most city restaurants that offer outdoor service or takeout and delivery services on its website.

Dining outdoors at The Den on Sunset
Sidewalk seating for Pura Vida on Santa Monica Boulevard
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Vincent Campisi
Vincent Campisi
1 month ago

Instead of opening up businesses we’re putting K rails in the street squeezing tables in between the K rails and the sidewalks. This city is run unbelievably backwards, upside down and completely messed up. I wish the five councilmembers would have respect for the city and its people to all step down at once so at least we could pick five new ones. The way they have handled these businesses, I should say the destruction of the businesses and its people is a disgrace. Please step down.

Jose
Jose
2 months ago

It’s about time Weho. What took you so long? You should have been bending over backwards to protect local businesses (and your tax base!) long ago.
Santa Monica had this months ago as did Long Beach which did an excellent job. LB even installed carpeted platforms onto the new areas so you never really feel like you are dining on the street. They also erected wooden boxing over the barriers so it feels like a permanent wall. Take a lesson Weho and quit acting like you are so ahead of the curve.

Mark T
Mark T
2 months ago

About time!
Santa Monica did this 2 months ago.
I hope many of these will become permanent – the loss of a few parking spaces in exchange for a vibrant al fresco dining scene is worth it.

Westside
Westside
2 months ago

Yesterday afternoon I watch a homeless/transient pull down three of the Covid barriers that Coco Queen uses. He pulled them down onto the sidewalk and then walked across Santa Monica (against the light).

There was nobody using the Coco Queen tables at the time, but it would have been startling to try to support a restaurant and then have a transient start making a mess.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
2 months ago

Al fresco street gutter dining? No thank you. I’ll wait for a table in the patio.

Larry Block
Larry Block
2 months ago

Come on down and eat shop play WeHo! It’s not a tag line. It’s a need. Thanks to the city for moving this forward.

Vincent Campisi
Vincent Campisi
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry Block

In all fairness, if you feel this is moving forward I don’t think you’re the right candidate. Moving forward would be opening the businesses and allowing people to eat indoors.

Curtis Beers
Curtis Beers
2 months ago

Why not use the vacant parking lot on Palm Avenue just north of Santa Monica Boulevard that is closed off? It might encourage people to come so they are not worried about tickets & towing? I personallydo not think I would want to eat in the gutter right next to the traffic.

UCSBGRAD
UCSBGRAD
2 months ago

I hope they never get rid of them. We have great weather in Southern California we should take advantage of it with the outdoor seating.

Drew
Drew
2 months ago
Reply to  UCSBGRAD

Agree!

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
2 months ago
Reply to  UCSBGRAD

agreed

JF1
JF1
2 months ago

When is PUMP and other businesses that still have boarded up windows going to remove the plywood that covers their windows and doors? It was not put up because of the pandemic but due to the looting that took place for a time. The looting has stopped and for the sake of the neighborhood’s psyche, we need to have these businesses remove the plywood!

Jay
Jay
2 months ago
Reply to  JF1

Hi JF1-

I sympathize with your concerns as well as the ongoing ones of potentially vulnerable closed businesses and open pharmacies.

Perhaps there is a compromise to be found and the City Arts Program could work with business owners to turn lemons into lemonade?

Drew
Drew
2 months ago
Reply to  Jay

Great idea! The City has a stellar public arts program and I’m sure there are lots of WeHo artists who would jump at the chance to provide some visual energy to boarded up and empty store fronts. Another result would be providing some economic support to the creative community in the City. The more money we can get circulating in the City, the better for us all.

JF1
JF1
2 months ago
Reply to  JF1

There is no need to decorate the plywood with art. The plywood should be removed. It makes the neighborhood look bad. If there had been a fire at these locations, I could understand the need for plywood…and then artwork would be welcomed. Like I said, there is no need for the plywood.

Lisa
Lisa
2 months ago
Reply to  JF1

Not till I buy it all.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
2 months ago

who wants to eat in the dirty street???

Drew
Drew
2 months ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

I believe the restaurants are providing tables and chairs so no one has to sit in the street. I believe they even provide plates, napkins and eating utensils. It’s a concept! I’ve seen this expanded street dining in San Luis Obispo and Carmel and the people love it. So do the business owners. And it creates a wonderful street energy and engagement that we currently lack during the Covid shutdowns. I’d like to see it become a permanent thing.

Jay
Jay
2 months ago

It’s wonderful to see the City working with local restaurants to support their existence through this trying time.

I see that some businesses have erected plexiglass partitions to protect pedestrians walking nearby and hope that the City is mandating this when applicable.

Kudos to David Cooley for his Abbey Road-
great name and nicely executed space!