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Outdoor, in-street dining is being rushed through as one way to assist restaurants as the recovery from coronavirus closures begin. The idea has been used in San Pedro before, most recently in the Little Italy district shown here and during events such as LA Fleet Week.

Some suggest it could perhaps be a silver lining in what’s been the horrible coronavirus pandemic.

Bypassing the usual cumbersome and years-long city approvals, it looks like alfresco dining in the streets of downtown San Pedro could be right around the corner — thanks to a mayoral directive.

That’s good news for some folks, including Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino and some local restaurant owners, such as James Brown of the San Pedro Brewing Co.

The plan to make use of Fifth, Sixth and Seventh streets to pull tables and chairs and servers out into public areas that allow for more socially distanced setups appears headed for  approval by Mayor Eric Garcetti in the next couple of weeks, according to the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

The waterfront town has talked about sidewalk dining for years and, in the past two years, has been able to make progress on a plan that would allow 12 restaurants in the downtown district to be built out with sidewalk dining spots.

But the dining-in-the-streets idea is now moving more swiftly as a way to assist restaurants and other businesses once they are allowed to reopen for in-person dining, after being shuttered for weeks to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. It is also anticipated that it could become permanent, at least along Sixth Street below Pacific Avenue.

But details have yet to be worked out, officials said this week, including whether only portions of streets can close to traffic to host outdoor dining or if hours and days could be limited. Nothing is yet in writing.

Neighboring Long Beach also has moved in the direction of outdoor dining as a way to assist struggling businesses.

As businesses try to reopen their doors, the process has sparked no shortage of confusion, said Elise Swanson, president and CEO of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce.

“The No. 1 thing I’m hearing is confusion,” she said. “There are all these different layers (city, county and state) and the phasing process, so there’s just a lot of confusion about who do I listen to and how do I get clarity on reopening.”

The board for the Property Owners Business Improvement District, in San Pedro, would like to see retailers also able to make use of outdoor space, but several members at a meeting this week stressed it would have to be controlled — to avoid a swap meet atmosphere.

Financial assistance, still being discussed, could provide $5,000 in forgivable loans to assist restaurants, as well as, possibly, other retail businesses as well.

But the challenges are many, Swanson said.

“The Health Department says we can’t draw a crowd,” Swanson said of some of the hurdles to clear.

Other issues coming up, she said, are how to provide more ventilation in store buildings.

“Can you open doors, windows, bring in big fans?” she said, adding obstacles exist with some of the town’s older structures.

“I think the road to recovery is going to be much longer than any of us expected,” Swanson said. “You want to reopen but you want to reopen safely.”

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