Patrons of restaurants at the Fountain Valley Town Center, a shopping center with a mix of retail and dining, could see safety and other improvements bolstering outdoor dining as early as next summer.

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The construction will be paid for with a $200,000 grant from The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that the city must allocate by the end of November. The City Council voted 4-1 last month to award the money to US Millennium, LP, owner of the Fountain Valley Town Center.

US Millennium, LP was the sole applicant to submit a proposal for outdoor dining construction, according to a city staff report.

The grant came to the city in July via Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do to create a support program for business owners who have suffered negative impacts due to COVID-19, the staff report said. Millennium will have until Dec. 31, 2022, to complete the project, If not, the awarded grant money must be returned back to the city.

“Our goal of the program, of course, is to create an effective, efficient, and attractive dining experience,” Deputy City Manager Maggie Le said during the City Council meeting last month.

Council member Glenn Grandis was the lone dissenter, saying he was hoping for a more equitable distribution of the money. Grandis said during the council meeting that he would have liked to have seen the funds split up between many business landlords to evenly distribute the money to many businesses financially affected by the pandemic.

“I would like to see a little bit more equity in terms of what we’re spending this money on. We should’ve distributed the money around to many different shopping centers in Fountain Valley,” he said.

US Millennium, LP is expected to use the funds specifically for construction items such as concrete, railings, metal bollards, and planters to increase safety measures for dining patrons, according to the city staff report. The concrete barriers and planters will separate the outdoor dining space in front of the businesses from the shopping center’s parking spaces. Money will also be used for seating, umbrellas, and lighting fixtures.

Le clarified during the council meeting that this outdoor dining arrangement will not be reserved for one specific restaurant, but will instead serve as a communal outdoor dining space for the row of businesses at the Fountain Valley Town Center at Brookhurst Street and Edinger Avenue. 

“It offers the patrons and visitors more flexibility,” said Le. “If family members decide to eat at different restaurants (and) so forth, they can go ahead and purchase whatever they need and they can access this outdoor dining as a family, as a unit.” 

Le said that the Fountain Valley Town Center was negatively impacted by COVID-19, with two businesses in the shopping center, Frogg’s Bounce House and Tip Top Sandwiches and Grills, having to shut down during the pandemic.

Mayor Michael Vo, who voted with the majority, expressed his excitement to help facilitate outdoor dining at the center, sharing that it will be a unique experience in Fountain Valley.

“I think with this concept we can offer more, not only for our residents, but also for people from neighboring cities to come to Fountain Valley,” Vo said.

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