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Santa Monica Government Taking on ‘Fast-Casual’ Restaurants
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 20, 2015 -- So-called fast casual restaurants, where customers order and pay for their food at a counter and a server brings it to them, have become a growing trend in Santa Monica and the country as a whole. But government officials say they could be a problem.

The City Council will consider a measure on Tuesday that would prohibit the conversion of traditional full-service restaurants into fast-casual eateries on the Third Street Promenade and the surrounding area.

The temporary measure would allow City staff to study fast-casual restaurants “and their impact on the diversity of eating establishments in the Third Street Promenade area and whether they should be characterized as restaurants or fast food,” Planning and Development Director David Martin wrote in a report to the council.

Martin further wrote, “There is concern that loss of all full-service restaurants may change the nature of the Promenade and the desire to provide a diversity of retail and dining options to visitors."

He added, "By their nature, full-service restaurants may tend to result in visitors spending more time within downtown potentially creating greater economic benefits for the area.”

Several fast-casual restaurants have opened in Downtown Santa Monica recently, including Chipotle, Hummus Bar Express, Steak ‘n Shake and Bruxie.

Although fast food restaurants have been banned on the Promenade outside the food court and the surrounding area since 1988, the fast-casual businesses are allowed because they are still defined as restaurants due to the use of a server, Martin wrote.

This proposal is going to the council as an amendment to an interim zoning ordinance defining development and planning rules for the downtown.

The council approved the interim ordinance last year, and will be asked to renew it on Tuesday along with the fast-casual amendment and one other through August 2017 while the draft Downtown Community Plan (formerly known as the Downtown Specific Plan) goes through the review process ("Revised Downtown Santa Monica Plan Set for Friday Release," February 11, 2016).

The other proposed amendment would remove the restriction that no more than 50 businesses are allowed to serve alcohol in the downtown commercial area, known as the Bayside Commercial District.

Like the fast-casual measure, this one would also be temporary.

“This amendment would serve to open a discussion as to whether limiting the number of alcohol establishments in the Bayside Commercial Zoning District continues to be desirable,” wrote Martin in the report to the council.

He added, “Alcohol sales in restaurants are an incidental component of the primary use of the business as a restaurant. Further, alcohol-related impacts are generally not associated with restaurants that provide alcohol service.”

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