By Ted AYALA
For restaurants along Honolulu Avenue, outdoor dining has been an essential part of the area’s atmosphere that has helped attract customers. And it has now gotten a lot more expensive.
As part of a budget package approved by City Council on June 28, the permits for allowing restaurants to keep outdoor dining areas jumped to $650 – 13 times the previous fee of $50. The fees were enacted beginning in August.
“The city arrived at these numbers after a study conducted by the Willdan Group,” explained city spokesman Tom Lorenz. “It came to the Council’s attention that in comparison to similarly sized cities in the region, Glendale had been undercharging for their outdoor dining permits.”
Restaurant owners in neighboring Burbank pay $150 annually for their outdoor dining permits. In Pasadena, the total fee varies from restaurant to restaurant depending on the size of the outdoor dining area and the location within the city. But the base fee restaurant owners pay is $185.62.
The imposition of the outdoor dining fee increase is the latest scrape between local business owners and the city, coming after past complaints regarding the city’s crackdown on outdoor signage.
“This is ridiculous,” said Maron Atallah, owner of the Quizno’s Subs on Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard. “It’s just another obstacle [the city] throws in our path. It’s just a shake-down. Glendale is expensive enough as it is. You own a house, they go after you. You own a car, they go after you. You own a business, they go after you. This is really not a fair tactic to lay on our businesses. The city just sees us as revenue sources they can grab from.”
Three Drunken Goats owner Brandon Kim echoed the sentiment.
“It’s really too extreme,” he said. “I’m surprised the city would do this. No one is making it here. I mean, we’re all just trying to survive out here. If they could at least hold off until the economy improved, I’m sure a lot of businesses would be grateful. We want to stay in business, but they’re really making it hard for us.”
Scott Trulik, president of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce, also concurred with local business owners’ exasperation.
“This is a really precarious time to be adding such a sharp fee increase,” he said. “I can see these fees being increased over time. But this will be horrendous for businesses in this difficult time. If the city wants to implement fee increases, they should at least be introduced in steps over time. This would have elicited a much more positive response from businesses. Some of the businesses are struggling to keep their doors open as it is, let alone having to worry about paying such a steep fee hike. Instead of going after businesses’ shrinking revenue, the city needs to take a hard look at itself, and see what it needs to cut.
“How many fees are they willing to burden these businesses with?” he added. “It would be another nail in the coffin of the local economy. We need to keep these businesses alive. If they go out of business, who can the city turn to then for revenue?”
Tom Lorenz noted that the city has placed a hold on the collection of the fees for the time being pending review.
“If they have yet to pay, they can hold off,” he said. “If they’ve paid their $650, they will be reimbursed pending the ultimate outcome of all this. We’re looking at various options here: implementing the fees over time, taking into consideration space and number of tables. Department of Public Works will be studying the matter closely.”
But Atallah wasn’t impressed.
“They need to study this?” he asked. “They should come up here and take a look. Talk to us. They really need to think about the small businesses hurting here.”