Captured street dining promotes La Verne’s restaurants
by Priscilla Applebee
photography by Emily Alvarez
Old Town La Verne’s quiet Lordsburg area of old craftsman houses flows seamlessly into small businesses that have captured homes on the margins before blossoming into a distinct old-town business area. The two-week pandemic hiatus that closed the Old Town business area turned to months; business survival became a desperate affair, and restaurants became dependent on take-out orders while some retail locations went dark.
As the nation dug deeper into the year, and the pandemic could not be dodged, Gov. Gavin Newsom finally allowed the option of outdoor dining with social distancing measures. In La Verne’s downtown with little space for large patios, this became another hurdle La Verne restaurant owners had to jump. The city of La Verne, Old Town La Verne Business Improvement District, and the local business owners collaborated and came up with a fair-weather solution to create a barricade on the marque D Street between Bonita and Third Street for restaurants to place tables under umbrella shades in the once bustling street.
Lea Skinner, city of La Verne Chamber of Commerce executive director, notes that La Verne was one of many Southern California cities to take dining outside to help keep restaurants solvent.
“We have been in constant communications with the business about state guidelines,” says Skinner. “There is also an ‘Open for Business’ website posted by the La Verne Chamber of Commerce to keep people informed about each businesses’ available services during COVID closures.”
The “Open for Business” web page provides information about business addresses, phone numbers, curbside pickup, takeout, and whether they are using online services like Postmates. While many restaurant owners praised the quick solution, a few retail locations felt a little more uneasy about the quick street closure.
“After Gov. Newsom announced the closure of restaurants for a second time, everyone was talking to all the business owners, and [the city] was ready to close the street right away,” says Francisco Ramirez, owner of Roberta’s Village Inn.
Craig Walters, chairman of the Old Town Business Improvement District, says the overall business component of Old Town has changed in the last 20 years. “Right now, the No. 1 businesses we have in Old Town are restaurants and food service, then it’s salons service businesses, then the third is retail. The few retail locations on D Street felt it was difficult because their customers could no longer park right in front of the business. But with the University of La Verne being online, the furthest one could park is a block away.”
With the help of funds generated from the La Verne Beer and Wine Walk, the Old Town Business Improvement District was able to give a $14,000 grant divided among 14 businesses. This money and the collaborative proactiveness may have saved many businesses from closing their doors permanently in Old Town.
As California heads into colder months, the question is how long can outdoor dining survive. According to Walters, the city of La Verne fire marshal is working with businesses to get heaters and heat resistant fabric walls and umbrellas so they can continue to serve their customers.
“Each individual business has to come up with a solution for the winter months,” says Walters. “The city cannot afford the coverings for everybody, and the association doesn’t have the money to do that either.”
The idea of continuing with captured street dining will also be under review for the summer months. As COVID cases continue to increase in January, and with the changing guidelines on opening businesses from Gov. Newsom, it may take some time before Old Town La Verne returns to normalcy.