Why Is Outdoor Dining Closed Everywhere In Southern California Except Manhattan Beach?

A waiter serves customers dining outdoors in Manhattan Beach on November 21, 2020. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

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Head to Manhattan Beach and you'll likely spot people eating (but not drinking alcohol) outside... at restaurants.

"But wait, isn't outdoor dining banned in all of Los Angeles County except Pasadena and now in Pasadena, too?," you might think.

Yes, it is! But this South Bay community has found a ... workaround.

Manhattan Beach doesn't have its own public health department — Long Beach, Pasadena and Vernon are the only cities in L.A. County that do — so the beach city can't just refuse to follow the county's order temporarily halting outdoor dining. Even if they did, the regional stay-at-home order currently blanketing Southern California would override that.

But, as Eater LA reports, local officials can regulate things like the public right of way and parking spots.

So on December 3, in an attempt to wiggle around the rules, Manhattan Beach reclassified all of its outdoor dining areas as public seating areas. That means anyone who wants to sit down and order and eat food in-person, outside, can do that. But you can't have a beer or a cocktail in these spaces.

A waiter serves customers dining outside in Manhattan Beach on November 21, 2020. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

These "public seating areas" are closed from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. and people must follow all of Manhattan Beach's other regulations for public areas, which include:

  • No reserved seating
  • Face coverings must be worn
  • Diners must maintain social distancing
  • No smoking or vaping
  • Throw away trash in receptacles
  • No alcohol
  • No disorderly conduct or noise
  • No littering or sleeping overnight

The Dec. 3 order from City Manager Bruce Moe reads, in part:

"In an effort to balance public health concerns and a business community struggling to cope with the County Health Order COVID-19 restrictions, the City has repurposed outdoor dining areas as public seating areas to encourage patrons to support the local business community while providing a socially distant and safe place to relax and enjoy the holiday shopping experience. The public can now use spaces previously allocated for outdoor dining and retail areas during the pandemic."

Manhattan Beach Mayor Suzanne Hadley agreed with the sentiment. "Our business community is struggling to survive the County's latest restrictions," she said, "and the City has a win-win solution to help, while safeguarding public health."

Whether state officials agree with that assessment is another matter.