Long Beach moves forward with plan to use streets for outdoor dining

Long Beach is moving ahead with its "open streets initiative" to help restaurants struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with what it's calling an "open streets initiative," which in some cases, could mean closing down streets or parking lots to move dining outdoors to help businesses while also practicing physical distancing.

"It's a breath of relief," said Luis Navarro, chef and owner of Lola's Mexican Cuisine. "It's almost like a lifeline for a lot of us in the restaurant industry."

Navarro says he's relieved the city is moving ahead with a plan to temporarily repurpose outdoor areas and turn parking spaces, streets or sidewalks into outdoor dining spots.

Like other places, Navarro's restaurant is relying on takeout and delivery with dining rooms closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Once the restaurants reopen there's going to have to be social distancing, which means 50% less seats," said Elizabeth Borsting, founder of Dine-Out Long Beach Restaurant and Cocktail Week. "If they can expand the dining room to the outdoors they can make up that loss."

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Long Beach is easing more of its coronavirus restrictions with the reopening of some recreation areas, but beaches remain closed.

The open streets plan was proposed by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

"We know that the COVID crisis we're in right now is a serious one," Garcia said. "It certainly is a health crisis first and foremost, but it's also an economic crisis."

Garcia stressed they will only move forward when it is safe to do so.

City staff showed the council what the program could look like, including partial to full street closures, staff emphasizing the need to be flexible and to work with individual businesses.

Garcia says the plan would also open up public spaces to increase outdoor activities and safer access to public transit.

So far there is no timeline for when the plan would be implemented. However, Garcia said he hoped the city would move quickly.
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