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Relaxed regulations in the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Pier and other commercial zones have been extended by City Councilmembers until the end of 2022 in an attempt to bolster the economic recovery of local businesses.

In May, Council adopted two Emergency Interim Zoning Ordinances, which established temporary rules that sought to make it easier for businesses to adapt to the changing world of COVID.

Specifically, the ordinances tried to foster nightlife and entertainment in the shopping district by allowing restaurants in commercial areas other than the Promenade to serve alcohol from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. each day, rather than just on Fridays and Saturdays. The emergency ordinance also allowed restaurants to generate half of their gross revenue from alcohol sales — the state’s legal limit — and extended a coronavirus era rule that allows restaurants to offer alcoholic drinks for takeout and delivery.

Promenade restaurants and bars gained the ability to obtain alcohol permits through an administrative process and serve alcohol on their premises, for takeout and delivery until 2 a.m. each day. Restrictions on live entertainment, television screens and games were removed as well with the introduction of the IZOs.

“These ideas were one prong of a multi-pronged effort to aid in the economic recovery of the city,” Principal Planner Tony Kim said while he discussed how the interim regulations intended relax and streamlining zoning and permitting requirements during council’s meeting Tuesday.

Both of the Emergency Interim Zoning Ordinances proposed for Tuesday remain largely unchanged, but they will include more flexible loading standards in the Third Street Promenade area and more flexible Alcohol Exemption standards for the Santa Monica Pier and other applicable commercial areas, according to Kim, who said the IZOs are set to expire in July. But they were extended pursuant to the executive order of the director of emergency services,” so they will expire when the executive order expires. “However, it’s uncertain as to when that will be so the proposed IZOs would extend the interim regulations until at least Dec. 31, 2022.”

It’s only been five or six months since the adoption of the regulations so it’s hard to quantify the effects this soon, “but the feedback that we’ve heard, I believe, has been overwhelmingly positive,” Kim said, noting the popularity of the new parking and alcohol regulations.

Shortly before council unanimously agreed to extend the interim zoning ordinances, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said city leaders do not expect a full economic recovery by the end of 2022.

“Nationally, we think it will take longer than that. Nonetheless, we believe this is an appropriate timeframe because we certainly will know more about the trajectory of economic recovery,” Dilg said. “And in that sense, I think this is an appropriate timeline to allow businesses to invest but also for us to see the impacts of that on our net residents and on our neighborhoods. So that is the frame in which we’re operating.”

brennon@smdp.com