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.
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.
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.