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Huntington Beach City Council extends Main Street closure through February

Jasmine Ramirez, left, Fabiola Struchen, center, and Carlos Ramirez have lunch at Killarneys Irish Pub in Huntington Beach.
Jasmine Ramirez, left, Fabiola Struchen, center, and Carlos Ramirez have lunch at Killarneys Irish Pub in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday night unanimously voted to extend the closure of the second and third block of Main Street to vehicular traffic through February.

The second and third blocks were closed July 6 and Aug. 3, respectively, to allow restaurants and retail businesses to serve consumers outside during the coronavirus pandemic.

The council voted on Sept. 8 to extend the closure through Dec. 31, so the council’s decision Monday keeps Main Street closed for at least another two months past that.

The closure has been generally well-received, though some business owners in the third block have indicated their business has suffered.

However, a survey recently conducted by the Downtown Business Improvement District, which was included in a staff report, indicated that 383 of downtown merchants surveyed — 89% — said that they thought the closure of the second and third blocks of Main Street have created a better atmosphere for downtown. Forty-six merchants — or 11% — disagreed.

Jessica Devlahovich, left, and Anthony Derashave have lunch outside at Baja Sharkeez in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
Jessica Devlahovich, left, and Anthony Derashave have lunch outside at Baja Sharkeez in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer )

“We should extend the patios ‘til at least next summer,” Baja Sharkeez owner Ron Newman said in a response to the survey.

“This way people will invest in the look of their patios. I don’t see us going back to normal ‘til [2021] if ever. If the city wants a shopping, dining, walking village, this is a good time to change the image of Main Street. We should set design standards and approve these patios so they are on Main Street for good.”

Restaurants will be unable to serve diners inside as Orange County moved back into the purple tier of California’s reopening guidelines on Monday, making the outdoor dining even more critical.

State officials announced Monday Orange County has moved back to the “widespread” reopening tier, meaning many reopened businesses will have to move operations outdoors again.

City Councilman Patrick Brenden proposed extending the second and third street closures through the end of 2021.

“I know that may sound a little crazy,” he said. “But I’ve always believed that even if we went back to 100% dining indoors today, we would want to give the restaurants another six months to operate at a little greater capacity, to make up for some of the losses that they have incurred.”

However, after further discussion, Councilwoman Jill Hardy made a substitute motion to extend the closure through February and allow the new City Council to decide plans after that. Tito Ortiz, Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser were elected to the City Council, where they will join Mayor Pro Tem Kim Carr, Erik Peterson, Mike Posey and Barbara Delgleize.

Huntington Beach City Council voted to extend street closures  on the second and third blocks of Main Street.
The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday night to extend street closures through February on the second and third blocks of Main Street.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The new council would vote on a possible extension past February at the Dec. 21 meeting.

“I agree that the closure of the second and third block has been a good thing, especially with [Monday’s] news of indoor dining not being possible,” Hardy said.

"[We want to] allow the new council to come on, have a more thorough debate and make a longer term decision.”

Posey additionally proposed discussing an extension of the hours of outdoor dining by an hour, from 10 to 11 p.m.

Vote on short-term rentals delayed

The City Council also decided to put off an anticipated vote on passing a short-term rentals ordinance until the Dec. 21 meeting, when the new council is in place.

The ordinance would legalize short-term rentals in Surf City but also subject them to heavy regulations, including a detailed permitting system and a 10% transient occupancy tax.

City contracts for Fourth of July celebration

Huntington Beach will contract with Soundskilz, Inc. to manage and produce the Fourth of July celebration from 2021-23, the City Council voted unanimously on Monday.

Soundskilz, based in Temecula, will be in charge of each of the annual events, including the parade, run, festival and fireworks show. The company will be paid $68,300 a year.

Additionally, consultant Stacey Newton has been hired for the July 4 events and will be paid up to $37,500 per year.

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