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LA Mayor Garcetti Announces Nearly $30 Million Relief Plan for Restaurants, Street Vendors

If approved, a slew of ordinances, direct payments, and permits could dramatically reshape the city’s dining scene as it begins to move beyond the coronavirus pandemic

Los Angeles Mission Serves Easter Meal To The Homeless
Garcetti handing out meals for Easter
Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced a slew of new restaurant and street food legislative efforts during his annual State of the City address last night, including a $25 million payment program for restaurants still struggling to remain solvent after more than a year of pandemic-related reopenings and closings. And while there’s a large emphasis on the financial side — including direct payments to restaurant owners — Garcetti also sought to further cement plans that have long been in the works, from clearing red tape around restaurant openings to creating an easier and more equitable pathway for formal street vendor permitting.

The biggest piece of the budget puzzle, per the LA Times, is a $25 million direct payment program (the mayor dubbed them “comeback checks”) that would provide a flat $5,000 to 5,000 different area restaurants, to be used essentially as they see fit — at least within the confines of business costs like rent, payroll, or debt. More than $1.3 million dollars would also be earmarked for street vendor support, defraying costs for permitting, cart-building, and more, on top of the ongoing LA Optimized program that connects small businesses of all stripes with free marketing services.

Garcetti also reiterated his support for making aspects of the city’s Al Fresco outdoor dining program more permanent. That pandemic-era plan allowed for city-approved outdoor dining spaces (like k-rail-protected street dining, or no-cost permits to add tables to a restaurant’s parking lot, etc.) for restaurants and a few street vendors, and has been seen by many as one of the region’s dining bright spots over the past year. Some cities like West Hollywood have pushed even further into pedestrian-only streets and open air dining avenues.

On the general ‘red tape’ front — a shorthand used when discussing the often onerous opening process for restaurants navigating many city, county, and state bureaucracies and expenses — Garcetti said that he would be proposing a formal new ordinance to cut both the time and cost for some permits, including alcohol licenses. The city will also seek to reduce the need for parking mandates in relation to new restaurant openings, which could have a profound impact on the density of restaurants (and costs to open them) in busy parts of Los Angeles.

The money, Garcetti said last night, will come in part from the pool of more than $1.3 billion in relief funds given to the city by the federal government under the direction of President Biden, though the spending is reliant on the passage of Garcetti’s annual budget in a few months’ time. The state of the city address was live-streamed yesterday from Griffith Observatory, and can be replayed here.