The Santa Monica City Council quietly approved outdoor dining license fees during its special workshop session on June 21, when it affirmatively voted to move forward with the Biennial Budget for fiscal years 2011-2013. The outdoor dining license fees were legitimized in council chambers almost four months to the date after the council contentiously recommended an increased fee schedule to charge local restaurants operating outdoor dining on public sidewalks.
New rates will take effect in fiscal year 2013-14. Current license fees for restaurants with outdoor dining on public sidewalks will continue to increase by its Consumer Price Index (CPI) throughout the next two fiscal years.
At the June 21 special session, no discussion was held regarding the outdoor dining licensing fees nor other fees proposed alongside the Biennial Budget.
With the implementation of the outdoor dining license fees, the City aims to create about $200,000 in additional revenue. However, restaurants will incur significantly higher monthly costs, ranging from about $400 per month on the Third Street Promenade to nearly $2,800 per month for one of the three affected restaurants on Ocean Avenue.
With the exception of three restaurants with fully enclosed patios on Ocean Avenue, restaurants may expect to pay up to $3.13 per square foot of sidewalk each month, up from the average monthly fee of $1.90 per square foot that restaurants currently pay for outdoor dining space; three establishments on Ocean Avenue may pay as much as $5.83 per square foot per month to be granted an outdoor dining license on public property.
At its Feb. 22 meeting, when it first discussed this issue and voted 4-to-2 to consider moving forward with the license fees, council members pondered whether the move would have very real negative impacts upon a restaurant that a decision to increase fees of any sort would have. Council members also noted at the Feb. 22 that such fee increases are an expected cost of doing business in Santa Monica.
“It’s not like this is… overreaching by the City. It’s been reviewed by an appraiser, a leading person in the restaurant business has acknowledged it is a fair, commercial thing for the City to do, and therefore I don’t feel any reservation myself in moving forward on that,” Council member Bobby Shriver then stated.
Council member Bob Holbrook took issue with the timing of the implementation of the fee increase, stating economic conditions may change by fiscal year 2013-2014 and the fees may no longer be as necessary to the City’s revenue as it appears to be today.
In all, there were five proposed fee revisions presented to Council members on June 21, none of which were formally discussed on the dais.
The proposed fee revisions include: three for the Public Works Department (newsrack permit fees, blanket utility permit fees, street offsite improvement fee); one for Planning and Community Development (Public Notification Fee); and, the outdoor dining license fee (for Housing and Economic Development Department).
According to the Santa Monica Planning Commission’s website, current monthly licensing fees for outdoor dining on public sidewalks range from 79 cents per square foot to $1.90 per square foot. It also provides information about other fees assessed, dimensions, design guidelines, alcohol, and live performances.