Santa Monica : Ice Cream Shops Cry Foul

An ice cream war is on in Santa Monica. At issue is an ordinance that bars ice cream and frozen dessert stores on Main Street from providing seating for their customers.

The law, originally passed to relieve parking congestion and discourage small shops from converting into restaurants, is being challenged by Main Street ice cream vendors.

Residents are concerned about nighttime activities that are associated with restaurants, such as drinking. They fear that small food shops might “sneak around” regulations and slowly become restaurants, if they are allowed to seat customers.

Ice cream shop owners argue that they’re being unfairly singled out, questioning why bakeries and delis--which offer the same kind of “incidental food consumption on the premises"--are exempt from the law.


The Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to consider an amendment to the ordinance that would allow a seating area of 250 square feet in each frozen dessert shop on Main Street. That’s about 16 seats.

The council will vote on the amendment on March 28.