Large groups of people walk down Pine Avenue in Downtown Long Beach, deciding which restaurant to dine at as loud music and fans chant for their favorite teams.
Pine Street in Downtown Long Beach has been reinvigorated with life.
Pine Promenade spans from Pine Avenue to First and Third Street, of which have been closed off to accommodate parklets and beer gardens for restaurants and bars during the coronavirus pandemic as part of the Long Beach Open Streets Initiative. These expansions allow restaurants and eateries to extend outside and adapt their services to serve guests while still abiding by city health guidelines.
Since Aug. 14, businesses on Pine have had time to settle into the new health guidelines and perfect the outdoor dining experience. The Open Streets Initiative will continue through the end of the year, but was originally due to expire in October.
In an effort to connect the community with information about local favorites, The Downtown Long Beach Alliance has also created an interactive map called Dine Out LB which lists what businesses are open, what services they offer and the steps they are taking to prevent the spread of the virus.
Kristin Chmielewski, the director of human resources and training for The Harbor in Long Beach, said that the initiative helped her business stay open.
“Long Beach is a very strong community and we’re seeing that being business owners, especially on Pine,” Chmieleski said. “We’re thrilled with the turnout of people. We’ve been very lucky to have this community support us.”
Other businesses have also had to change the daily operations of their business to accommodate guests. Brian Gambe, the manager at Shannon’s, a popular downtown bar, had to transform into an outdoor restaurant in a short amount of time in order to survive.
“It’s helped alleviate some of it, but it’s quite not 100%, in comparison to what we would’ve made inside,” Gambe said. “We’ve had to restructure a lot of the way we do things, like before we never had a hostess or table numbers. Every week it’s something different that we have to change. It’s a lot of planning.”
Service standards have also fallen short and have been met with challenges like frequent changes to health regulations and limitations set on the sale of alcohol. Businesses are held accountable to ensure that customers ordering drinks stay in the same location, when the tendency is to grab a drink and go somewhere else after paying.
“Service is not as good as it was in the beginning because, even though you have all these tables out in the street, you still have to maintain your labor, so maybe three [servers] are working, now they have to get their drinks and food all the way inside and then take it out, you know.” Anthony Alvarez said, the general manager for Waters Edge Winery that is locally sourced in Long Beach. “There are no fixed rules. The rules adapt because we’re in a new thing, so we don’t know where the line is until we cross it.”
Despite the challenges , the average two hour wait proves people want to experience a night out.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I never in my life thought I’d see anything like this,” Chmielewski said. “It is a huge challenge for the food service industry to be able to stay on top of the daily changes that are being handed down. Our local health department has done their best to communicate and be open with us but it comes from the top and when the governor makes an order, it’s very difficult to accommodate that in a timely fashion. It would be so much better if we got a little more notice.”