Many Eateries Out of Compliance
LARCHMONT BOULEVARD—Nine eateries on Larchmont Boulevard are possibly illegally operating as restaurants, and eight have sidewalk tables and chairs that are not allowed, according to an analysis by the Larchmont Ledger.
There are two key regulations in play on the boulevard: the so-called “Q Conditions” and the city’s municipal code.
Regarding Q Conditions, they dictate how many businesses, and what kind, can be on Larchmont Boulevard, based on a formula.
“Per the ordinance,” said Nuri Cho of the Los Angeles Planning Dept., “there should be 10 legal restaurants and the rest should be take-outs.”
There is no limitation on take-outs.
Tom Kneafsey, president of the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District, said it’s time for a change.
“The Q Conditions have run their course and need to be revisited,” he said. “The current interpretation of the conditions have hurt many businesses on the boulevard and it’s time that we discuss eliminating them.”
Beyond the Q Condition, food establishments must also adhere to Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), which says take-outs—like Pressed Juicery for example—cannot offer seating.
The reason behind this rule is parking, according to the city.
A customer who sits and dines at a restaurant will most likely have a car parked longer than someone darting in and out of a take-out to pick up a cup of coffee, for example.
As such, restaurants must provide more parking spaces than take-outs to compensate.
Currently, there are 23 places to eat in the area governed by the Q Condition and LAMC, and 19 have indoor and outdoor seating. An additional three eateries offer seating only outdoors.
Per the Q Conditions, which only allow 10 restaurants, it appears that nine too many eateries are operating as restaurants with three more pushing the limits.
The Ledger was able to confirm the status of 18 eateries. However, another five could not be independently verified, as city documents could not be found or were out of date.
The issue of what’s a take-out versus a restaurant has been debated locally, following lawsuits surrounding the Larchmont Bungalow, which was permitted by the city as a take-out, but continued to operate as a restaurant.
One boulevard restaurant owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, said although the owner of the Bungalow signed a covenant saying he would not have seating, there are several other eateries that are also acting illegally as their permits do not allow it.
“A covenant is no more [binding] than the actual permit itself,” said the owner.
As there is money to be made with the extra sales generated from having seating, the restaurant owner said the practice will likely continue.
“Food establishments will come in as ‘to-go,’ knowing that there’s slacking and no [city] enforcement and just put in tables and chairs,” the owner said.
Michael Mizrahi, whose recently deceased father, Albert Mizrahi, owned the Larchmont Bungalow, additionally said the Q Condition for restaurants should be revised.
“The Q Condition constrains the type of new dining experiences able to come to the Larchmont community,” said Mizrahi. “The experience of a proper sit down restaurant that takes pride in its space, its aesthetics and its food…that’s the kind of 360 degree experience Larchmont deserves.”
According to Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, the city typically acts on such rules infractions if they are alerted to them.
In relationship to Q Conditions, which were put in place in 1992 to preserve a mix of retail, business and eateries on the Boulevard, Ryu said he is in favor of making sure the street is in compliance.
“I am in support and more than willing to enforce the Q Conditions,” Ryu said in an interview. “I need to know if there have been violators.”
However, other than the Bungalow, there appears to have been few complaints regarding any of these issues, perhaps indicating the community likes things just the way they are.
According to Ryu, most complaints he’s had regarding Larchmont are about buckling sidewalks from overgrown tree roots.
“If there is a huge uproar from the community about changing [the Q Conditions] then I would consider it or I would start that dialogue, but I just haven’t heard that uproar.”
In addition to these possible infractions, many establishments appear to have outdoor seating not in compliance with another city regulation called a “revocable permit.”
A revocable permit, according to Jacob Bigler of the city’s Bureau of Engineering, allows restaurant owners to put tables and chairs on the sidewalk, provided there is a minimum of seven feet of space for passersby between tables and chairs.
In addition, all seating must be at least seven feet away from tree grates, parking meters, street curbs and the like. Such is also important for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
“The tables and chairs should be next to the building,” said Bigler.
A stroll down Larchmont reveals there are eight eateries that have seating right by the curb.
The only time a restaurant can legally have seating on the sidewalk without a permit is if the tables and chairs are within the restaurant’s property line.
Additionally, according to Bigler, sandwich board signs, like those that run up and down the boulevard, are out of compliance with municipal code, which prohibits advertising in a public byway.