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Newport Beach extends temporary use permits for outdoor dining

Customers sit in an outdoor dining area.
Customers sit in an outdoor dining area by Dory Deli at Newport Beach Pier in November 2020.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Outdoor dining for a lot of restaurants in Newport Beach will still be permitted through this summer, following council action earlier this month.

The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously to extend the life of emergency temporary use permits, authorized under the city’s Back to Business program adopted last May, through Sept. 6. Councilman Noah Blom recused himself due to business interests.

The permits allowed restaurants and other businesses to spread out onto adjacent parking lots, sidewalks and other public property during the early stages of the pandemic when capacities were limited.

The state officially reopened its economy on June 15. Orange County was previously in the yellow tier, in which restaurants and bars could only be open indoors at about 50% capacities. As of Tuesday, restaurants and bars were able to reopen at full capacities.

City staff said in a report prepared for the meeting that the extension of the permits was to allow for a transitionary period as restaurants and other local businesses recovered from the pandemic.

Senior planner Makana Nova said the extension would be automatic for existing permit holders. Thereafter, permit holders could apply for a limited-term permit to continue to authorize their use and applications would be handled individually and depend on the location, parking and land use compatibility.

City staff in the interim would be investigating and analyzing parking rates under zoning code, according to Nova.

Businesses would then need to amend their entitlements, typically through a conditional or minor use permit and, if in the coastal zone, a coastal development permit if they wanted to make their outdoor dining permanent fixtures, Nova said.

The resolution up for discussion only encompasses the extension of the permits through Sept. 6 and the limited-term permits. It also waives application fees for the latter. This would affect about 100 permit-holders throughout the city, Nova said.

“Staff’s thinking in this time period that’s proposed is that the summer season is very, very important to our economy and for the vitality of restaurants in the area, so this would provide that bridge if you will for the near term in the summer season,” she added. "[It] would allow restaurants to plan ahead and decide if they want to pursue a more permanent solution.”

Councilwoman Joy Brenner raised concerns about public noticing, hours of operation and whether or not there was a fine structure involved for permit-holders. Councilwoman Diane Dixon asked that permit-holders be responsible for upkeep of the public right-of-ways and sidewalks in use.

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