Newport Beach clears path for more outdoor dining, other curbside service

Patrons eat lunch at Charlie's Chili near the Newport Beach Pier on Wednesday.
Patrons eat lunch at Charlie’s Chili near the Newport Beach Pier on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach has removed a regulatory hurdle for businesses — and churches — to spread out and regain their footing as the region reopens from two months of pandemic lockdown.

The City Council unanimously approved a permitting program Tuesday that allows businesses and religious institutions to temporarily expand into parking lots, sidewalks or other adjacent private or public property to maintain their usual occupancy — or at least get closer to it.

Mayor Will O’Neill said physical distancing mandates within businesses mean that shops and dining rooms aren’t at full capacity, so their parking won’t be filled, either, but the usual permitted path to utilizing lots as floor space would require a variance from the city Planning Commission, which can take some time.

Phase 2 permits in-person dining reservations and retail shopping with distancing and face mask protocols in place and the reopening of some person service businesses, including car washes, pet groomers and tanning facilities.

The Fast Track Back to Business Initiative allows reconfiguration of parking and circulation areas to accommodate curbside pickup, takeout windows and expanded outdoor dining. In addition to benefiting restaurants, the program can green light boutiques to set up racks of merchandise in parking lots, or churches to give outdoor services or drive-through blessings. The program also allows for the extended duration of advertising banner permits.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to ensure that all businesses are considered essential,” said Councilman Kevin Muldoon, who crafted the ordinance with O’Neill and Councilwoman Diane Dixon.

Patrons line up for food at Pipeline near the Newport Beach Pier on Wednesday.
Patrons line up for food at Pipeline near the Newport Beach Pier on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Certain businesses have been allowed to incrementally reopen, with restrictions, over the last three weeks. Still, O’Neill said an “unfortunate number” of storefronts are shuttering around town as a result of stay-at-home orders that took effect in mid-March.

“When you have a business and you have overhead, every day that you are not open is a day that you are closer to that business going out,” he said.

Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis said permit applications will receive expedited review from his office, the police and fire departments and public works for safety and accessibility, with a response within 24 hours. The procedure will be done through email, and fees will be waived.

The permits will expire 14 days after the city’s pandemic-related emergency order is terminated or repealed.

There were 116 new cases of the respiratory disease reported Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

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