Emergency use permits for outdoor dining extended by Newport Beach City Council

The outdoor dining area at Newport Beach Hotel.
Pictured is the outdoor dining area at Newport Beach Hotel in November 2020. The Newport Beach City Council has approved the extension of the pandemic-related emergency use permits for outdoor dining through the end of this year.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Newport Beach City Council voted this week to give restaurants a little more time to continue operating in parking lots, sidewalks and private and public property on their emergency temporary use permits as the pandemic continues.

Councilman Noah Blom recused himself due to his business interests.

The permits will be in effect through the end of the year, though the City Council previously extended their life through Sept. 6 in June with the intent of creating a transitional period for businesses as they recovered from the pandemic’s impacts.

Under the process set forth, limited-term permits would be granted to restaurant owners based on the location of their business, parking availability and land use compatibility, determined by city staff on a case-by-case basis. They would later be asked to amend their entitlements by way of conditional or minor use permits and, if their business was in the coastal zone, they would also need coastal development permits.

At least 24 applications for limited-term permits were received by the city, according to a report prepared for Tuesday’s council meeting.

The extension now comes as the arrival and growth of the Delta variant in Orange County has complicated the ability for restaurants to comply with Cal OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards and other agency guidelines on distancing, ventilation and use of outdoor areas to reduce transmission of the virus.

In Newport Beach, there have been 4,832 cases since the Orange County Health Care Agency began keeping data at the start of the pandemic. The Delta variant is currently the most dominant variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The seven-day average rate of coronavirus cases across the county has now fallen from the 16 cases for every 100,000 people reported last Friday to 15.3 on Thursday. Hospitalizations have likewise fallen along with the number of cases in intensive care units.

“Some of the restaurants have asked that, you know, they’re still kind of suffering through the COVID process. The summer season has died off. The season’s getting slower,” said community development director Seimone Jurjis. “So, they’re asking to extend this.”

Action taken Tuesday was several days after the expiration date of the original extension, which local government watchdog Jim Mosher questioned as “something odd.”

Attorney Jeff Shields, speaking on behalf of resident and business owner Jill Markowicz, argued for an amendment to be made to the resolution that would extend the permits — the hope being that the extension of the emergency use permits would only be applicable to businesses that have not received notices of violation or administrative citations, in order to “weed out the bad actors.”

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