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Promenade on Forest opens in Laguna Beach

Violet Selleck of the Violet Boutique store rolls a cart onto the new Promenade on Forest on Monday.
Violet Selleck of the Violet Boutique store rolls out a cart onto the new Promenade on Forest in downtown Laguna Beach, which opened to the public on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

With temperatures in the low 70s, Monday afternoon provided a welcoming atmosphere in Laguna Beach, where residents and visitors were greeted with a new outdoor option to enjoy shopping, dining and art.

Promenade on Forest officially opened with a ribbon-cutting earlier Monday. The outdoor area on Forest Avenue, between Coast Highway and Glenneyre Street, will be open to pedestrians only this summer. The design, which includes decks for dining, retail display and performance art, supports local businesses on lower Forest.

String lightning, umbrellas and plants provide daytime shade and ambiance.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen credited City Councilwoman Sue Kempf and Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis for helping make the promenade a reality.

“This is exciting,” said Whalen of Promenade on Forest, which was approved by the City Council on May 12. “I think this will be a fun opportunity for our community, a great boost for our local retailers and restaurants. I just encourage you all to come down, wear your mask, safely social distance and spend some money.”

Bernard Delao, assistant general manager at 230 Forest Ave. restaurant, said he has been receiving “tons” of reservations to sit on the deck outside.

“It’s going to add to our business, and we’re going to be able to recoup some of the losses that we’ve had over the last couple of months, being closed,” Delao said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for all of the businesses down here, to help us get back in the swing of things ... There’s been a little push back here and there about the parking situation, from what I’ve taken from a couple [of people], but beyond that I haven’t really heard too much negative feedback. I think it’s kind of a win-win for us, and the local residents.”

Public art squares embedded with tiles by Marlo Bartels adorn one of the entryways to the new Promenade on Forest.
Public art squares embedded with tiles by local artist Marlo Bartels adorn one of the entryways to the new Promenade on Forest in downtown Laguna Beach, which opened to the public on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

David Rubel, co-owner of Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers, would agree. He sat outside on one of the decks Monday, drinking coffee with his father, Fredric, and a friend.

“I’m excited,” David Rubel said. “I love the idea that we did this, and I hope all of the businesses do well, even the ones that weren’t for it. I think it brings the community together. We’re not going to have any festivals [this summer], any Fourth of July fireworks, no playhouse. This is a place for residents to come and hang out, be part of their community.”

The Promenade on Forest will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Sept. 7. The city asks that face masks be worn when patrons are not eating food, and pedestrians should follow the defined one-way circulation pattern to maintain physical-distancing requirements.

Even those who don’t work in the closed-off block are excited. Sam Deen, owner of Kokopelli Gallery further up Forest Avenue, said he is hopeful the promenade will lead to more people continuing to walk to visit merchants up the street.

Stevie Schreiber of Costa Mesa, 30, enjoyed a sandwich from Moulin with her boyfriend James Fischbeck, 32, on Monday. They said they were unaware the Promenade was opening prior to arriving, but they liked the idea.

“People can be out and about and still living their normal lives, while trying to keep as much distance as possible,” Schreiber said. “At least I feel better out in open air, versus crammed into a tiny restaurant. I wouldn’t say I would not come down here if this wasn’t an option, but it is kind of nice. We can space out and enjoy our time.”

Outdoor dining on newly built decks is one of the new features on the Promenade on Forest in downtown Laguna Beach.
Outdoor dining on newly built decks is one of the new features on the Promenade on Forest in downtown Laguna Beach, which opened to the public on Monday,
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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