Al Fresco Dining in the Public Right of Way: Whose Space is it?

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How are different cities responding to the shifting landscape of outdoor dining?

Al Fresco Dining in the Public Right-of-Way: Whose Space Is It?

Thursday, May 18th, 2023
Helms Design Center

On March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Many jurisdictions followed with local emergency orders which called on residents to limit all activities outside of their homes. These restrictions included prohibiting restaurants and retail food facilities from providing indoor dining in coordination with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The financial impact of the public health emergency was particularly difficult for small restaurants. 

Soon after came the temporary outdoor dining programs that have helped to alleviate the financial stress of the indoor dining prohibition. These new programs often suspended certain regulations in order to provide restaurants and other food establishments with an alternative to full indoor dining - temporarily. 

Now that we moved from the pandemic to an endemic and full-service indoor dining is allowed, how do cities transition and take the best of what outdoor dining offered during the height of the pandemic into the future? Can cities reclaim the public right-of-way from the very businesses that provided the public a safe respite and gathering place? Will businesses be able to adjust as regulations are enforced and the cost of outdoor dining increases for operators? 

How has the urban landscape shifted, literally and figuratively, and who do our streets and sidewalks belong to after all? Join us to discuss these questions and more.

Andrew Thomas, CEO, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
John Keho, Director of Planning and Development Services, City of West Hollywood 
Madeline Brozen, Deputy Director, UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies

Annette M. Kim, Ph.D, Associate Professor, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy