Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was commended recently when he announced that the L.A. Al Fresco outdoor dining program for restaurants would be extended through the end of the year. But, Beverly Hills is already on the fast track with that concept.
While many of the area’s top restaurants are not blessed with outdoor patios, some have expanded onto the street, in alleys and parking lots. In early June, the City was already discussing the option of utilizing the public parking meter spaces in front of the sidewalks to build parklets, offering restaurants more outdoor dining space for customers.
As part of the OpenBH program, businesses are allowed to apply for special event permits with the City, which include expanding to the parklet. It’s a 30-day permit with no fee. After this trial period, businesses can extend as long as the parklet is moved up to the sidewalk. Greek restaurant Avra was one of the first to try the extension at the street level and it has been so successful, they are planning to move up to the curb level as early as next week.
Now Canon Drive resembles a grand European boulevard with pop-up dining spaces holding tables and chairs enshrouded in greenery including newcomer MÍRAME, who is doing a brisk business with its new wooden parklet enclosure. “We ultimately decided to move forward after seeing the success of our neighbors like Il Pastaio and Porta Via utilizing the extra seating,” co-founder Matt Egan told the Courier. “We are grateful to the City for streaming the permitting process as we have seen a notable increase not only in revenue, but also visibility, which is important as a new restaurant,” he added.
Even though there might be less parking, the initiative is helping restaurants bring back customers. “It’s a positive thing because it adds seating for us and reduces the wait time,” said Il Pastaio Manager Nina Chua. “Saturday night is the busiest time and the wait could be two hours before the parklet,” she added. As for business, Chua feels they are back to about 60 percent capacity now prior to the March shutdown. “The community seems to be really enjoying it, and our neighbors are doing it too.”
Popular breakfast and lunch spot, Croft Alley, has expanded onto the sidewalk on Brighton Way. It also has big plans brewing for the space in the next few weeks. Adam Rubin, co-owner of the crowded café, has applied for a parklet permit with the City. The extra 14 seats will house their debut dinner menu and expanded hours launching on Sept 10. “The City has been amazing,” he told the Courier. “Over the top accommodating and doing anything they can to help.” The new menu will feature a peri-peri South African chicken dish, plus beer and wine for the first time.
Il Fornaio was one of the first to add a booming sidewalk scene with verdant pods safely separated by plexiglass, but they also felt the need to expand even farther to a parklet on the Dayton Way side of the building. Now they can seat an additional 32 people, which brings them to operating at a little over 25 percent capacity which is a boost to the bottom line.
Beverly Hills celebrity institution Mr. Chow has never offered patio dining of any kind until restaurants were ordered to close indoor dining for the second time a few months ago. Now the sidewalk in front of the space has bushes to conceal the famous clientele, special lighting, music and even heaters for when the weather turns chilly in the evening. Plastic glass separates the tables for extra safety. According to manager Ricardo Amorim, the locals are fully supportive of the outdoor shift. “People love it!” he told the Courier. ‘The customers are telling me when we reopen in indoors, we should keep it like this, it feels like Europe.”
Neighboring Madeo is still occupying a temporary space in town until their original Beverly Blvd. space in West Hollywood reopens late this year or in early 2021. The first area of expansion was the front of the restaurant with tables and outdoor seating which has expanded down Camden Drive and they have plans for a parklet already in the works. “We enjoy working with the City to come up with creative ways to stay open and be safe in these unusual times,” co-owner Gianni Vietina told the Courier. It seems that plenty of long-time local regulars still wanted to join them for a meal, especially on the converted parking lot patio in the back. It’s exclusive and intimate with handmade rugs, colorful umbrellas for shade and it’s blocked off with walls of greenery for privacy. “People are looking for comfort, security and some type of normalcy,” said in-house representative Ash Castro. “They can see familiar faces, some of the staff has worked here for 30 years. It’s like seeing family again, even in a parking lot at six feet away.”
Other local restaurants who will be revealing parklet spaces in the coming weeks include The Cheesecake Factory, e.baldi, Cantina Frida and Caffé Roma who will be sharing the space with next door neighbor Xi’an.
Hotels Accommodating Weary Home Workers
On the hotel front, The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills has hatched a new plan for home workers who can’t escape to their usual private club and need a change of scenery.
“Offices at The London West Hollywood” is a new concept in remote working. This new offering is the brainchild of Greg Velasquez, director of sales and marketing at the property, who anticipated a demand for an office alternative with so many people working from home now. “We have seen an uptick in long term stay requests for business travelers. We try to anticipate our guests’ needs and we think that temporary, controlled office environments might be the next area of demand,” he told the Courier.
The concept is broader than simply hanging out by the pool with your laptop or ordering a room service “working lunch” in your suite. The beds are actually removed from the rooms. What remains is a large desk, chair, furniture and wall-mounted television.
This service will also accommodate businesses who are unable to open their L.A. offices or are not fully prepared to accommodate social distancing requirements. Individuals and companies can lease the hotel’s spacious, secure guest rooms on a monthly basis without the hassle of an annual lease agreement and deposit required by most commercial spaces. It beats working at the kitchen table.
It’s also cost-effective for the hotel. “Because these rooms are converted hotel rooms, the additional staffing required is minimal. The beds are removed from the offices and periodic janitorial and cleaning service is provided by our existing staff,” Velasquez told the Courier.
The rents start at $242 per day or $5,000 per month for a 725 square foot guest room that has been converted to a fully usable office space. “Because each of our rooms also has a private bathroom and a private balcony, we consider this a very competitive and attractive rate,” said Velasquez. Additionally, The London’s Executive Chef Anthony Keene has created a special culinary menu for guests who have an office at the hotel, called “The Commissary Menu.”
The hotel sees this as a stepping-stone solution. “We certainly hope that we can all return to more ‘normal’ operations sooner rather than later, but if the need for this service remains, we are here to provide it,” added Velasquez.
Other local properties such as Hotel Bel-Air and Beverly Hills Hotel have also opened up some of their guest rooms for a new “Work from Hotel” alternative accommodations. Amenities include an on-call IT concierge for any tech issues, complimentary snacks from the mini-bar, plus the ability to order from any of the restaurants as well as use the pool facilities.
The rooms or suites have ample space to meet clients or host video conferences with desks, stationary supplies, high-speed Wi-Fi and discounted parking. The rooms are available at both iconic properties from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting at $875.
The Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills also offers a special “office” day rate that is considered on a case-by-case basis. It includes access to the pool and private fitness suite with a Peloton bike and other equipment that is now replacing the gym. For provisions, the patio at Vinoteca is back open seven days a week.