Dining Al Fresco, a life saver with planters and umbrellas

| September 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

AL FRESCO program on Larchmont Boulevard provides extra outdoor dining areas for approved restaurants. Photo by Billy Taylor

Local restaurants are facing hardships as a result of the pandemic, in part because indoor dining is currently prohibited locally. To help, the City of Los Angeles launched a program to assist called “L.A. Al Fresco.

AL FRESCO dining brings smiles to parents and kids alike.

For restaurants approved for the program, the City provides barriers, planters and umbrellas to expand outdoor dining areas beyond their usual footprint. On Aug. 21, Mayor Garcetti extended the program’s permits for the rest of the 2020 calendar year.

On Larchmont Boulevard, two separate areas have been reserved for “parking lane dining,” which has taken a total of nine parking spaces. In other parts of the city, the program has established new outdoor dining areas on sidewalks, parking lots and even “full street dining” where the street is completely closed to traffic.

“The Al Fresco program has been a life saver,” says Le Petit Greek co owner Nora Houndalas. “It has also been very appreciated by our customers.

“Everyone is under a lot of stress with the pandemic and economic crisis.  The Al Fresco program provided us with a safe social distancing atmosphere outside that is lovely and inviting,” she explained to the Chronicle last month.

FAMILY enjoys dining Al Fresco on Larchmont Boulevard.

According to Houndalas, the program has given the 32-year-old Larchmont Village restaurant a lifeline for survival: “It gives people a chance to gather safely with loved ones, and that is good for everyone’s mental health.

“The future is unknown but, for now, this program keeps a roof over our heads and over half of our employees working. It also supports our vendors and service providers who benefit from us when we are up and running,” she adds.

In fact, she says that they love the program so much they hope it continues long after COVID-19. “We are incredibly grateful for the hard work and genuine concern the City has shown for restaurants across Los Angeles,” says Houndalas.

DOG FRIENDLY dining is another benefit to Al Fresco-style service

Steve Vernetti, owner and chef of his eponymous Italian restaurant on Larchmont, echoes those sentiments, telling the Chronicle that the program has been “a true life-saver” for his business.   

“Between this program and the kindness of our neighboring shops, we have been able to expand our footprint and provide enough outdoor dining that we can survive,” says Vernetti. “The support of the city and community has allowed us to show that restaurants can operate safely and responsibly while providing a wonderful experience for our guests.”

Help for small business

This program is exactly the kind of effort that the City can implement to help small businesses during the pandemic, explained Councilman David Ryu last month. He says that the Al Fresco program is just one tool in the toolbox that he has been pushing for over recent months.

“I recently had a meal on Larchmont at Vernetti and, obviously it’s not the same, but I think most of the outdoor tables were full. It looked successful,” says Ryu, who notes that he is eager to see how lawmakers can expand the experience and offer it to other kinds of businesses.

“Most of the feedback has been positive about the Al Fresco program,” says Ryu. “I am glad to see a lot of businesses taking advantage of it.”

Ryu told us that he has been working over the past few months to develop and advocate for initiatives to help small businesses during the pandemic. Among those initiatives, Ryu has introduced a motion to establish a wage-replacement program, and he supported action by the Mayor to rescind fines recently issued to businesses for posting advertising signs and banners during the pandemic.

“We should be encouraging restaurants to operate safely and advertise their businesses, not slapping them with fines,” says Ryu. “And I’m open to additional ideas to keep supporting small business during this difficult time.”

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Category: Entertainment

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