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Here Are the New Restaurant Guidelines that Could Save LA’s Al Fresco Program

Plus, a new opening in Downtown, coffee on Pico Boulevard, and more

Outdoor dining at dusk with twinkle lights.
Outdoor dining under twinkling lights.
Andrea Bricco
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.

It’s been a long and winding road for LA’s Al Fresco program, launched at the height of the pandemic as a way for restaurants to easily retrofit private (and sometimes public) outdoor space for safe on-site dining. The program, launched under then-mayor Eric Garcetti, was an immediate hit with diners and operators alike — so much so that the overstretched program event briefly ran out of funds back in 2020 — but has fallen out of favor with the city more recently as pandemic-era emergency orders sunset, leaving original language and laws in place over who gets to serve food where. Restaurant owners have complained about going back to square one, often being told that they need to completely redo outdoor spaces and resubmit the work to the city’s Planning and Building and Safety departments.

Now, after much public scrutiny and calls for streamlining from current mayor Karen Bass, the City of Los Angeles has released an al fresco draft ordinance that puts in place many new guardrails for operators. Among the changes (as seen on this fact sheet and this comparison chart), owners would be able to skip some permitting approvals while city officials remove zoning requirements for square footage devoted to seating on private property. There are still issues to be resolved — like how many public parking spaces can be used by restaurants for patio-style dining — that will need to be worked through, but the full draft ordinance can now be found (and discussed) on the city’s website. The ordinance is expected to be presented to the City Planning Commission on April 27, with formalization and tweaks to follow.

More ice cream for Highland Park

Sad Girl Creamery is now available at Jeff’s Table in Highland Park. The ice cream and bespoke Choco Taco specialist is offering takeout pints of flavors like guava jam cheesecake, chocoflan, vegan peanut mazapán, and more. Find them in the cold case at 5900 N. Figueroa Street.

Two new coffee expansions

Kumquat Coffee’s Downtown LA location at the Jonathan Club is now quietly serving its collection of coffees, teas, and specialty drinks. The shop had an opening party over the weekend and is now running on weekdays only, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 545 S. Figueroa Street.

Mad Lab Coffee’s newest location at 5508 Pico Boulevard in Mid-City is also here. The small shop hosted its own big opening weekend party on April 8, and is now open for daily service from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Expect two new locations, including one in Canoga Park, by the end of the summer.