Santa Monica Tweaks Ordinance That Would've Accidentally Banned All Restaurants [Updated]

Update, January 14, 2021: I come bearing good tidings, Takeout readers! Turns out that the City of Santa Monica recently adopted an emergency ordinance allowing all restaurants to operate takeout and curbside pick-up given the ongoing pandemic. The fast food ordinance mentioned below also doesn't apply to restaurants with less than 150 locations, which is good news for locally-owned businesses and regional chains operating on the Promenade. Okay, phew.

Original post, January 13, 2021: What's that idiom about the best-laid plans? I can't remember because today is Tuesday, which is the day after Monday, and my brain is the consistency of Nickelodeon slime. Regardless, sometimes things don't work out the way we intend. Case in point: as reported by Eater L.A., the Santa Monica City Council recently voted to extend an ordinance banning fast-food chains from the city's picturesque promenade. Sounds like a good idea, right? Unfortunately, the ordinance could make things tricky for locally-owned restaurants offering takeout to stay afloat.

According to Eater, the ordinance was introduced in 2018, when members of Santa Monica's City Council voted unanimously to prohibit fast-food chains from opening on the Third Street Promenade. The idea was to keep fast food businesses off of the charming Promenade, reducing competition for beloved local businesses and maintaining the area's tourist-friendly aesthetic. Last week, the council extended the ordinance. Here's the rub: the specific language within the ordinance bans restaurants where "orders [are] placed at a walk-up window, counter, or machine," "payment [is completed] prior to food consumption," and "food [is] served with disposable, one-time, or limited-use wrapping, containers, or utensils." Of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that's... every restaurant.

Los Angeles County still has a state-mandated ban on onsite dining, which makes this ordinance extra sticky. And since the ordinance was extended last week, the language won't be put back in front of Santa Monica's Planning Commission for some time. Whether or not county officials will enforce the ordinance remains unclear—but if officials end up cracking down on Promenade restaurants, the consequences could be dire.