The San Gabriel Valley’s vibrant shopping and dining culture sets it apart as a multi-national region that is not just unique within Los Angeles County, but worldwide. Residents can easily find the best food from Asia and Central and South America. Specialized products that shoppers might have once had to drive 30 miles to purchase in stores in Chinatown, for example, are now available from Diamond Bar to Pasadena.
With the many economic challenges of 2020 and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, cities in the San Gabriel Valley have stepped up to promote local businesses, expanding outdoor dining and shopping in many areas, waiving permit fees, and transforming parking lots and sometimes entire streets (see La Verne and Pomona below) to allow for expanded seating and shopping areas.
Here is a short glimpse at how several cities here in the San Gabriel Valley have made special arrangements to support their local businesses. The San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership is proud of all 31 cities that make up our region. This short list celebrates just a few of the local cities and Chambers of Commerce that have been working to help businesses prosper.
Soon after the state and LA County allowed outdoor dining and limited business outdoor re-openings, Alhambra created an expedited, free permitting process. Permits now allow for both dining and shopping on the sidewalk or in public space and parking lots. Nighttime in Alhambra has become a festive, cafe-culture atmosphere with string lights and outdoor bistro dining.
Since Arcadia’s dining is more dispersed and less concentrated in a traditional downtown than other SGV cities, outdoor dining has been permitted on sidewalks and parking lots for specific businesses. Restaurants are not alone – fitness, hair, and nail locations have gone outdoors too!
The Westfield Santa Anita Mall, of course, offers excellent Asian food options that have made use of their upstairs open air space for outdoor dining.
Almost 50 small businesses have received $5,000 grants to help with COVID-19-related reopening expenses from the City of Arcadia.
Like many cities, Azusa is finding ways to allow payment deferrals on utilities for businesses under economic stress. The city is currently reviewing applications for $10,000 grants to small businesses affected by COVID-19.
Expanded business space into sidewalks and other public space has also been offered. Aldolino Italian Restaurant, pictured below, is one of many that took advantage of this opportunity to create a charming new dining experience.
Like the cities mentioned above, Claremont has expanded dining into public spaces and parking areas – but with a typical Claremont flair! Two downtown restaurants have expanded with beautiful wooden patio spaces, and more are on the way.
The popular 1950s-style downtown in Covina has expanded several dining sites with outdoor patios and greenery – a welcome cool relief during our current heat and fire season!
This is the third year Diamond Bar has hosted "Restaurant Week", a diverse and exciting October festival offering prix fixe meals and special discounts by the city's many eating establishments. The city also recently awarded almost $500k in grants to over 90 businesses to help them through this tough year.
Duarte and the Duarte Chamber of Commerce have been providing “Open for Business” banners since the early days of the pandemic to help support businesses that are threatened by the pandemic. As the “City of Health,” Duarte’s medical facilities have of course been working hard towards improving the health of SGV residents.
El Monte restaurants have expanded into private walkways, parking spaces, and sidewalks. The city still offers some of the best cuisine of Mexico and beyond, and is a cultural hotbed in the southern half of the San Gabriel Valley.
The City of Industry is known for its robust businesses – 69,643 employees and only 200 residents! – and these businesses are doing their part during the pandemic. For example, Griffols Biologicals, an international pharmaceutical company with a major plant in Baldwin Park, recently expanded into an Industry facility where they are storing plasma, which could potentially be used to assist with finding a cure for COVID-19.
Beyond this, Industry has offered expedited, no-fee outdoor seating approvals, offered $5k grants for outdoor seating expenses. The Industry Business Council has also launched their own Industry-specific dining guide (soon to be in print) and is working with their 164 dining establishments to weather the crisis. They are also hosting an upcoming (private) restaurant appreciation event.
La Verne has closed D Street in Old Town (immediately north of the University) for restaurants and service businesses to operate outdoors. It also encourages outdoor dining in other parts of the city, but the charm of walking D Street has inspired online petitions to keep the block pedestrian, even after the pandemic has passed.
Monrovia has been permitting outdoor expansion where possible, especially using street parking in Old Town. Their fabled breweries are currently limited to take-out orders due to county restrictions. The City of Monrovia and the Monrovia Chamber of Commerce have been outspoken advocates for collaboration between eateries and breweries that would allow for onsite dining options. However, approval of such options has not yet been a priority for LA County.
Montebello has established its own temporary sidewalk/parking dining space permits, and has loaned city-owned equipment to help restaurants set these new facilities up. Their chamber of commerce set up a roundtable for restauranteurs and the California Restaurant Association to prepare for the challenges ahead and share solutions. They have created a revised local dining guide to help patrons know who is open, who is doing takeout, and where seating is currently available. Chamber member eateries have also been actively promoted via their social media.
Both Old Town Pasadena and Colorado Boulevard have shut down sections of parking in order to expand dining options for restaurants. Like Alhambra, Pasadena was one of the first cities in the San Gabriel Valley to shut down public parking or even lanes of busy Colorado Boulevard in order to support their restaurants.
"Activate Pomona" is a program that has transformed the entirety of Second Street on either side of Garey Avenue – the historic Antiques and Arts Districts – into outdoor shopping and dining areas. This has brought new life to the historic area first designed by artist Millard Sheets, whose mosaics still adorn the fountains and banks along Second Street. This program will continue at least until December 31.
When indoor dining was banned, the City of San Dimas immediately created no-cost Temporary Outdoor Dining applications. Over two days, planners visited every single restaurant within the City’s boundaries to encourage and promote the use of outdoor dining. Many businesses in San Dimas' beautiful downtown had preexisting outdoor seating, but the city and chamber proactively promoted other outdoor uses, and used social media to encourage residents to take advantage of them. Rail Side Café and Roady’s are great examples of businesses that have expanded their outdoor dining in order to accommodate more guests.
Temple City is offering free 8-foot banners to businesses, free of charge or permit, to declare they are open for business. "[Our] business community has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic," says Temple City Mayor Tom Chavez. "It is the city council's hope that communicating the presence and resilience of our local businesses through our new 'Open' banners will serve the dual purpose of helping those businesses promote themselves and reinforcing the message that #WeGotThisTC."
We know that many San Gabriel Valley business owners have made impressive efforts to keep the local economy and our unique culture alive, most of which could not be captured in a short blog entry like this one.
Please feel free to share your accomplishments with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can learn from each other and survive the current economic challenges as a community, together.