Long Beach will close neighborhood streets to allow outdoor dining at local restaurants

The City of Long Beach unanimously voted to move ahead with phase one of the city's 'open streets initiative,' releasing details of the new program.
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The City of Long Beach is extending a lifeline to restaurants and other small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic through its 'open streets' initiative.

"I think it was really started with the leadership of our mayor and city council talking about how we could utilize the city's open space to help create opportunities and support our businesses and our neighborhoods through this COVID transition that we're all experiencing right now," said Public Works Director Craig Beck.

As early as next week and occurring through October, Long Beach will be closing off neighborhood streets to vehicle traffic and opening them up to pedestrians, cyclists and restaurants that want to increase seating capacity.

"It's going to be one of the many tools that restaurants, cafes and coffee shops are going to have to utilize in order for us to stay alive," said Luis Navarro, chef and restaurant owner in Long Beach. "Right now, the hospitality industry is on life support.

Under L.A. County's new guidelines, indoor dining occupancy capacity cannot exceed 60%. The open streets initiative would allow restaurants to add more seats in public spaces.

"It's a way for us to be able to create a comfortable dining environment for people where they could be outside, Alfresco, at six-feet distance and not enclosed," Navarro said.

Since 2015, Long Beach has hosted Beach Streets, which closed down major thoroughfares to vehicle traffic for pedestrian use.

"We looked at the Beach Streets model and the great activation and community connection that we made, and looked at doing something similar on a different scale," Beck said.

Instead of shutting down major arteries, Long Beach's open streets program will close off neighborhood streets.

"We wanted to create kind of a very flexible program because this is not one size fits all. We know different areas of the city are going to need different times or different closure days," Beck said.

Designated streets will be able to be closed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. any day of the week. According to the city, neighborhoods will determine the schedule within those hours.

In addition to the open streets initiative, Long Beach is expanding its parklet program, which allows restaurants to use sidewalks and parking spaces for outdoor dining seating.

"Anybody that enjoys going out and having cocktails and dinner with friends and family, right now would be the time to support your local restaurants," Navarro said. "We need you right now."

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