COVID ushered in a brave new world for bars and restaurants in West Hollywood, and that world looks like it’s here to stay.
City Council moved one step closer Monday night to permanently allowing outdoor dining on sidewalks and in parking lots, as well as permitting the sale of alcohol as a takeout/delivery item — the hallmarks of the OUTzone program, created at the height of the pandemic to mitigate the economic effect of lockdowns on the city’s dining and nightlife establishments.
“I’ve never seen our city so vibrant and full of life and excitement and happening,” said Councilmember John D’Amico, who voted alongside his colleagues to approve staff’s recommendations in two separate motions.
“I have a different perspective,” said Mayor Lauren Meister during councilmember comments. “I feel like we are putting the cart before the horse, by not discussing the OUTzones and how that’s actually going to work, which places should have them, which places shouldn’t have them.”
Meister was concerned about the amendments’ unforeseen consequences, and she wondered whether there was a reason to institute them before more public feedback could be attained.
“We do have a parking issue here,” Meister said “I hear it from from people all the time and I hear it from business owners. Staff is comparing us to San Diego, and we are not San Diego. For people coming into West Hollywood, from other areas, we’re still seeing people take their cars. We’re not seeing everybody in rideshares. And rideshares are also getting more and more expensive. If people can’t find a place to park, then that could hurt business, and even ride-sharing cars are causing traffic problems.”
“The OUTzones have been very successful for getting us through the pandemic, but I there’s a little bit of a disconnect here,” said former Councilmember Steve Martin during public comment, echoing her concerns. ” It seems like a little bit of a rush; it has a vague tinge of the Robertson Lane closing, which seemed like a great idea, but it kind of came back and to bite you in the ass.”
Meister voted for the measure after the council reached a compromise limiting the amount of outdoor dining space with no parking requirement.
The motion also directs city staff to explore the use of public parking potentially to allow two-hour free parking during the day and or at night or both, as well as additional community outreach.
The amendment to allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol as a takeout item, already enshrined in state law, passed without D’Amico’s support.