By Alysha Conner | LA Wave Newspapers
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The continued rise in coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County has resulted in a new program designed to help South Los Angeles restaurants increase business being put on hold.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the second phase of the “LA Al Fresco” program June 26 during a press conference attended by City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
“Our small businesses are the backbones of our economic strength — and the second phase of L.A. Al Fresco will mean more local restaurants will be able to serve more customers in ways that keep everyone healthy and safe,” said Mayor Garcetti. “L.A. Al Fresco is focused on backing those bearing the brunt of COVID-19, giving Angelenos more places to safely gather and dine, supporting our workforce, and revitalizing the beating hearts of our communities.”
But less than a week later, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered restaurants throughout the county to quit serving dine-in customers, three weeks after those restrictions had been lifted,
Public health officials revealed this week that the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases and hospitalizations has increased by 45%.
Garcetti and the city of Los Angeles initially launched the L.A. Al Fresco program at the beginning of June to help local restaurants reopen while adhering to health regulations.
More than 560 restaurants were given temporary outdoor dining permits to convert public spaces like parking lots and sidewalks into COVID-safe dining areas.
In the second phase, eligible businesses were going to receive 90-day permits for new outdoor spaces, along with barricades, planters and umbrellas.
Pro bono design services were also going to be provided to help participating businesses set up shop in their new outdoor dining areas.
“Even as we open up more, you got to do the four things that will help us continue to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Garcetti said at the press conference. “Make sure you’re wearing your face mask. Make sure you’re keeping your physical distancing. Make sure you’re washing your hands. Make sure, whenever you can, that you’re staying at home.”
“Small businesses contribute so much to the culture and economic vitality of South Los Angeles and our entire city,” Harris-Dawson said. “This program is a great step towards helping businesses that are struggling to survive this crisis adjust their operations and aesthetics to continue serving our communities.”
Garcetti’s press conference about the second phase of the Al Fresco program took place in front of South LA Café, a minority-owned coffee shop.
The café had been able to build an outdoor dining area despite the ongoing COVID-19 recession.
“Over the weekend, the governor and his office reached out to me and asked me whether we should close the bars. I said, ‘You have my 100% support doing that.’ I’d love to see more and more of the economy open up, but we simply cannot endanger people’s lives,” Garcetti said June 30.
Public health professionals identified bars as one of the major hotspots contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
“We’ve been so fixated on the when, and not as responsibly focused on the how-to safely reopen,” Newsom said June 29.
According to state officials, “Bars are social environments where groups of people mix. In these environments, alcohol consumption reduces inhibition. It impairs judgment, leading to reduced compliance with recommended core personal protective measures, such as the mandatory use of face coverings and the practice of social and physical distancing.”
Gov. Newsom restricted dine-in restaurant services in LA County on July 1, and expect to enforce more COVID-19 regulations in California in the coming weeks.
Mayor Garcetti’s office assured that the second phase of the LA Al Fresco would not be affected by Gov. Newsom’s recent closure of bars.
“We will be stepping up our enforcement in the state of California,” Newsom said. “It’s not a ready, fire, aim approach. It’s a ready, aim, fire. Meaning we want to work with people and be responsive and responsible and to support their needs, especially small businesses.”