Manhattan Beach turns outdoor dining spaces into 'public seating' areas to help businesses

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Manhattan Beach has found somewhat of a loophole to keeping its outdoor dining alive. The city deemed restaurant patio areas as "public seating." But there are some rules that come with that designation.

Usually, business owner Kelley Haley would be working at the Manhattan Beach restaurant Homie every day of the week. She was forced to close last week because of L.A. County's outdoor dining ban.

"The to-go model is just not sustainable," Haley said.

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Haley said she lost 80% of her business so far during the pandemic. However, Haley reopened on Sunday.

"Say the health department says your outdoor dining is being used. My response would be that the city has converted these through a permitting process to public spaces," she said.

Signs that read "public parklet - for your enjoyment" are posted around town. They reflect the Manhattan Beach City Council's decision late last week designating outdoor dining areas as public seating areas.

But here are some regulations:
- No reservation of seating;
- Face coverings must be worn;
- Maintaining social distancing;
- No smoking or vaping;
- Must throw away trash in receptacles;
- No alcohol;
- No disorderly conduct or noise; and
- No littering or sleeping overnight.

That means you won't see servers waiting on tables. Eateries, cafes and restaurants are not to use them to seat actual customers -- unless customers seat themselves.

Spaces are only for sitting and eating. But with the state's new stay-home order, it's unclear what's next for Haley. For now, she says she will only remain open on weekends.

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"The last time in the beginning, when we had the major stay at home, it was very, very quiet down here and most people, large percentage did comply," she said.

Haley says she will comply this time too, but will every business?

Haley says she's used all of her savings and is in the red right now just to keep her doors open.

"It's a definite business killer. This has been shockingly awful year for many small businesses," she said.

The footprint of Manhattan Beach is at stake.

"This community, this downtown area, is predominantly mom and pop. There's no chains down here. There's a lot of very hard working sincere entrepreneurs that have done everything they can to grow a small business. This isn't sustainable much longer," Haley said, adding that spring can't get here soon enough.

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