LA City Council moves to make LA Al Fresco permanent
LOS ANGELES — The LA City Council this week voted to begin steps to make the COVID outdoor dining program known as LA Al Fresco permanent – giving Lady Byrd Café’s owner Misty Mansouri a sigh of relief.
“To me, outdoor dining is the most amazing thing there is. I mean, we live in California. Why would you spend this much money to live here then not enjoy what we have, which is beautiful weather,” Mansouri said.
Last January, after 30 years in the hospitality industry, Mansouri opened Lady Byrd Café. Then the pandemic hit.
Pivoting from the start, Mansouri invested $70,000 to convert five parking spaces into 1,000 square-feet of additional outdoor space that now includes a garden and a greenhouse.
“I felt like people really deserved a beautiful experience. Right? This was their first time out, spending money, taking chances, and I wanted to give them that,” Mansouri said.
The LA Al Fresco program began last May and streamlined requirements and approvals across multiple city departments for outdoor dining on parking lots, sidewalks and streets. The City even issued free traffic control equipment and shade umbrellas where they were needed.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2021-2022 fiscal year budget proposal, which is currently being reviewed by the Budget and Finance Committee, includes $2 million in grants for low-income neighborhood restaurants to create permanent outdoor dining areas as part of the program.
Mayor Garcetti responded to the approval saying in part, “In a city whose unofficial motto is 72 and sunny, let’s make al fresco dining permanent.”
For restaurant owners like Mansouri though, it is not all sunny. To be able to accommodate the added space, she had to hire over double the amount of staff. However, during this unprecedented time, she said she is happy to be creating jobs — even if it does come at the cost of her bottom line.
“It’s doubly beneficial to the city, to the state, just as far as taxes and employing more people,” Mansouri said.
Even with LA County in the yellow tier, she has not opened up indoor dining yet and said she is in no rush.
“I’m taking my time. Baby steps,” Mansouri said.
For someone born and raised in LA, she said it is a privilege to give back to her community.
“People cry to me because they were able to reunite with their mother or their auntie or their grandmother and feel safe, and it’s been amazing to see. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to provide people with this experience,” Mansouri said.