Restaurants and some local officials are interested in ways to make some of the city’s temporary outdoor dining spaces into permanent features. Photo by Clara Harter

I’m a foodie. I love good food, high cuisine, or a greasy cheeseburger with a chocolate shake. I can be comfortable dining in any white linen restaurant in the world, and just as comfortable grabbing some street food from a vendor in Beijing. I was blessed with an iron gut and to have a family that taught me manners and etiquette which enable me to not make a total fool of myself at a table with 4 forks for an 8 course dinner.

While attending law school I supported myself by working for a business consultancy that primarily had me going into restaurants and performing a top to bottom shake down. I was in heaven. I could walk into a restaurant, march my way into the kitchen and start nosing around. I’d chat up the chefs, most of whom were wonderful, a few of whom were less than open to my insights shall we say, and I was taught many great lessons about the food world in those days.

The food industry is an interesting mix of hard scrabble businesspeople, dreamers and hard-working line cooks. They come from all over, and immigrants find their way to the food industry often as their first jobs because if they don’t know English well enough it’s a great place to practice, and in a city like Los Angeles where we have so many diverse cuisines there’s always an opening for a newcomer who speaks a first language as they learn English.

But COVID and lockdowns are decimating the wealth of flavors that we have here. That’s a big word, decimate, it originally meant to take a tenth and kill them, the Roman used it to keep order in their armies. Today it is generally used to mean a large percentage.

It’s not actually big enough at 10% to describe the carnage that is happening in the restaurant industry. In an industry that regularly has 50% failure rate, the denial of indoor dining is speeding the deaths of many restaurants. The loss of any one business is bad for a community, because the money that is generated keeps circulating to pay rent, repair cars, pay for laundry services and a myriad other things to keep a society moving.

The Restaurant Association of America estimated that as many as 100,000 restaurants closed in 2020 and sales were off by 34% and the increased costs of handling the COVID precautions have sliced razor thin margins to vapor.

Help is on the way though. Yesterday California relaxed the heavy restrictions statewide of the Stay At Home order, and in Los Angeles County outdoor dining can resume again. This is welcome news to many of our local restaurants who desperately need us to support them.

While outdoor dining is not always the warmest of experiences, many of our local eateries invested heavily in redoing their outdoor dining options to accommodate the demands of the Department of Public Health and their customers. For example, Lunetta All Day built two cement block guarded dining areas in their parking lot to allow us to enjoy dining al fresco.

Z Garden on Pico and 26th redid their outdoor dining patio, and expanded their front area to allow for more diners to enjoy their healthy Mediterranean. While they’ve been busy with the delivery side of the business, having the capacity for outdoor dining, but not being allowed to use it, is frustrating to both guests and owner.

The good news is that this relaxing of the SAH order by Governor Newsom is an indicator that the infection rate, and the hospitalization rates are headed in the right direction. That does not mean however that we are now free to “move about the cabin” – we need to still be aware of the need for social distancing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

As we have learned over the past year, things change. Today’s improvement in the overall conditions can easily turn bad again. We have new variants of the COVID19 that are popping up globally. A virus has the ability to become more infectious, more deadly, less deadly, less infectious and a combination of those.

We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans so far, we’ve lost tens of thousands of restaurants which translates into millions of jobs that have been negatively impacted. The immediate future is brighter, if we stay vigilant, continue doing that which works and remember to support our fellow business owners.

I encourage you to head out to dinner at one of our local landmark restaurants, but do so intelligently and use the precautions that will allow us to fully recover, so one day we can even eat inside again.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra