Outdoor dining is one of the perks of near year-round summer weather here in Southern California. It’s been one of our strengths during the ongoing pandemic and dining restrictions. When the city greenlit outdoor dining, most restaurants discovered they needed even more al fresco space than before. With eaters eager to get out of the house, capacity needed to be increased and, in an attempt to maintain social distancing practices, Mayor Robert Garcia allowed the expansion of makeshift parklets into the streets. In a city where there never seems to be much parking, the idea of spaces being lost to accommodate diners may seem like creating one problem to solve another, but as someone who lives in the Downtown District the loss of a few parking spots has been well worth seeing local businesses be able to safely serve more people.
Walking down Pine Ave, the main artery of downtown, has a more festive feel than the bleak ghost town atmosphere it had months prior. Now, with the street fully closed to traffic, it feels safe to meander around while staying distant. You can catch a few minutes of a basketball game one on the many TV’s on Shannon’s outdoor patio and even snag a seat at the parklet to grab a beer if the game holds your attention. It feels like a city again, one that we all pay heightened rent prices to enjoy. The availability of safer outdoor dining might seem like a small victory, but food is what we gather around in times of joy, mourning, and everything in between. Food is the beating heart of cultures all over the world and cities are built on the backs of small pizzerias and white tablecloth establishments alike. When everything is out of our control food is something we cling to in an attempt to make sense of a world without direction.
Almost every restaurant and coffee house you walk past now has a makeshift parklet. Some are decorated ornately, like Thai District on Linden Ave. While others keep it simple with a few tables and a small partition like Georges Greek Café on Pine Ave. Some restaurants, who already boasted a small amount of outdoor seating, pushed out onto the sidewalks fitting tables wherever they can while keeping people safe. Shannon’s on Pine even separates tables and servers with clear plexiglass to keep contact to a minimum. Most menus have disappeared in favor of QR codes to reduce any possible spread, some restaurants will have you order and pick up your food instead of having normal wait service. Each eatery finding what works for them, tweaking their formula to maximize safety for their employees and their patrons, thankful as always for any patience shown during this confusing time. This year has been difficult for everyone. Looking online for a few minutes you either see arguing, grandstanding, lamenting, or memes mocking the prior.
The decision to allow parklets and tables to spill into the avenues has been positive and regardless of how the pandemic affects our lives over the next few years I hope this is something that stays. Seeing the life of the city, dining and drinking, pour into the open has been a relief beyond just seating more patrons. There’s a hope to it. A positivity in seeing families enjoy themselves and people soaking up the Southern California sun. Whether or not you feel safe dining outdoors is a personal decision, but hopefully regardless of your views on it you remember to tip well and be thankful for the city you live in and its resilience. Long Beach has seen dark days before, it surely will again, but you cannot keep down a city that is built on community, diversity, and, of course, good food.
For a full list of Parklets & Patios in the City of Long Beach download the LB Living App today!