LA gives restaurateurs the green light by cutting back on red tape

Chef Gordon Ramsay poses in the kitchen with his staff at the celebration opening party of his new Los Angeles restaurant at The London West Hollywood June 4, 2008 in West Hollywood, California
Chef Gordon Ramsay poses in the kitchen with his staff at the celebration opening party of his new Los Angeles restaurant at The London West Hollywood June 4, 2008 in West Hollywood, California Frazer Harrision/Getty Images

Entrepreneurs seeking to open restaurants and other food establishments in Los Angeles can expect less red tape, thanks to a streamlined permitting and inspection process unveiled today according to city officials.

Restaurant & Hospitality Express is a new multi-government agency program that officials say will cut the lengthy permitting and inspection process by 50 percent -- to six to nine months.

"We listened to our restaurateurs and heard their frustrations,'' First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner said. "Most importantly, we took action and created a new way of thinking and working that provides measurable results for businesses and creates jobs in our city.''

By making the permitting and inspection process more efficient, the city will enable more food establishments to open on time, create new jobs, boost tax revenue and spur economic growth, he said.

"New restaurants and bars are significant job creators,'' said Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Association, which represents more than 450 businesses and nonprofit organizations in downtown Los Angeles.

"In downtown alone, they have created 17,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in sales and tax revenues in the last decade,'' she said. "That is why the status quo was not acceptable; in fact, it hampered economic growth and stymied job creation.''

Under the R&H Express program, each new establishment will be assigned a dedicated case manager to provide one-on-one assistance throughout the design, permitting and construction stages of the development.

Much of the paperwork that used to take six to eight weeks to submit and review can now be completed over-the-counter, in 24 hours or less.

"In these tough economic times, we have to find creative solutions that meet the demands of more, for less,'' said Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes downtown.

"In terms of new businesses, permitting and inspecting restaurants and bars is, by far, the most complicated process,'' Beutner said. "By demonstrating that we can successfully overhaul this approach, we believe it sets a new, more efficient standard for permitting and inspecting other kinds of establishments in the city.''

The R&H Express network includes the Departments of Building and Safety, Public Health, Planning, and Fire. It also includes the Bureaus of Engineering and Sanitation.

The Central City Association first proposed streamlining the permitting and inspection process last year. A pilot program drew 14 new establishments, five of which are now operating.

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