“It’s the opposite to helping small businesses. They’re trying to penalize you at all costs,” says chef Brian Bornemann of Crudo e Nudo
By Keemia Zhang
In July, Santa Monica approved a permanent outdoor dining program to preserve the parklets that sustained restaurants during COVID-era rules.
However, local restaurants claim that red tape and new mandates are causing more businesses to shut down their parklets altogether. Brian Bornemann, chef and founder of sustainable seafood restaurant Crudo e Nudo on Main Street, claims that Santa Monica’s regulations are “killing” outdoor dining.
“We understand paying rent for places that used to be parking,” Bornemann said. “It’s about $6,000 in check fees, another $1,000 for building and safety fees, $3,500 for deposit, and then rent.”
But new City requirements have also replaced the previous ones, which have promoted many locations to take down their outdoor dining permanently, instead of “shelling out $20,000” to remake what they already paid for during the pandemic – a time which, Bornemann points out, was already difficult for local businesses.
The chef stated that the government is “treating restaurants like developers”, forcing them to pay upfront fees for new sewage lines to handle new occupancy numbers – this is customary for homeowners, however, Bornemann stresses that restauranters will not own the extensions they are paying for.
“The restaurants who made it through the pandemic are paying this one-time fee that’s exorbitant, $1,400 a seat. It’s a clear money grab from the City,” Bornemann said.
The chef also expressed frustrations with the City forcing restauranters to provide personal guarantees for their patio additions.
“Normally LLC guarantees are corporate guarantees, but for whatever reason, the City is now requiring that if your business should go under because of this, you can personally pay as an individual,” Bornemann said.
Bornemann recognizes that the City is facing financial issues following decreased revenue coming out of the pandemic but still thinks more parklets could provide increased revenue for the City’s coffers.
“The City has its own financial issues coming out of the pandemic, but you would think they would view increased revenue on a busy street as a good thing,” suggests Bornmann. “Many of our neighbors have taken down their patios. We have to put up that money we don’t really have, and it’s very scary.”
Bornmann and his colleagues recently went to City Council in a bid to get the new measures overturned, but were unsuccessful.
“It definitely feels like it’s the end of an era right now,” says Bornmann. “It’s the opposite to helping small businesses. They’re trying to penalize you at all costs.”
Crudo e Nudu recently took to social media asking the public to reach out to Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis (email@example.com) and City Council (firstname.lastname@example.org) asking them to get rid of these fees.
“The only way to save outdoor dining is the email the mayor and City council, and ask them to remove the ‘personal guarantee’ and the ‘water waste capital facility fee’ entirely. So if you like eating outdoors, if you enjoyed watching Main St bloom, or if you like independent restaurants in general please send an email as soon as you can,” reads the post.