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How Did LA Restaurants Fare On This Pandemic Valentine's Day?

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Wine glasses at a restaurant. <A HREF="https://unsplash.com/photos/DOBIZ_sqgXM">Chuttersnap/Unsplash</A>
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Valentine's Day is the single busiest day of the year for restaurants but going out for a romantic meal isn't quite the same in a pandemic. Indoor dining at restaurants in Los Angeles County is still forbidden. Although outdoor dining — with restrictions — was recently reinstated, how appealing was that option for couples?

"We're on 7th and Mateo, so we're having to make guests eat outside where there are big rigs driving by and tons of cars," says Brittney Valles, who owns Guerrilla Tacos in downtown L.A. She opened outdoor seating last week, hoping to pick up some extra Valentine's Day business. But the weekend wasn't as busy as she'd hoped.

"[Guests] are eating on the street and right on the other side of the window, they're looking at our beautiful restaurant. So it's literally a different environment for our guests," she says.

For other restaurants, the first official Valentine's Day during the COVID-19 pandemic went well. For the first time, many restaurateurs this year offered romantic prix fixe meals for takeout as well as dine-in.

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At Manhattan Beach Post, Fishing with Dynamite and The Arthur J, chef and owner David Lefevre says outdoor dining at all three spots was booked for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — and the four-course Valentine's take-out menu sold out.

"We're still a little bit down over last year but with Valentine's Day, it's mostly couples that are dining. So if you have a table for four people, you're only seeing two people at it. So you're not normally as efficient as you could be. With to-go, it doesn't matter so you actually can do some pretty good sales with that.," Lefevre says.

Manhattan Beach recently closed some of its streets to cars to allow extended patio seating. In early December, the city reclassified certain outdoor areas to allow people to eat food in them.

Anecdotally, the Valentine's weekend looks like it gave many local restaurants a boost. But with or without the holiday weekend, Valles says small restaurants are hurting and she encourages people to order from independent eateries if they can.

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