“West Hollywood is open for business,” WeHo Council member John D’Amico boomed during his speech at a rainbow ribbon cutting ceremony officially launching the city’s OUT on Robertson pilot program. D’Amico was introduced as one of the Chief Architects of the program.
The ceremony took place on the corner of Robertson Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard with The Abbey Road, The Chapel and The Abbey Food & Bar in the backdrop. Restauranteur and reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump and David Cooley did the actual ribbon cutting. They were joined by the entire city council and a member from the non-profit organization Black Women Lead.
Vanderpump spoke of the struggle for businesses in the past 14 months at a city podium surrounded by plexiglass. She expressed how happy she was that restaurants were opening up again. She owns three businesses walking distance from each other, TomTom Bar, Pump Restaurant and Sur Restaurant and Lounge. She revealed that TomTom and Sur are getting ready to open again as LA County lifts more COVID restrictions for restaurants and bars. Sur is located on Robertson Boulevard and could benefit from OUT on Robertson.
She also gave a shoutout to the city of West Hollywood. “West Hollywood has been an incredible city,” she said. “It’s progressive. It’s safe. It’s like a family here. And I’m so thankful to see all of you, and for your support. We got this. We’re coming back stronger than ever.”
“As you can see we’re all here. We’re masked. Hopefully you’re all getting vaccinated,” Council member John Erickson said from the podium. “Hopefully we’re all out here ready to have a good time and support our businesses.”
“This Out on Robertson item was so exciting to me because it was an opportunity to come back together in community after being stuck in our homes so patiently for over a year,” Council woman Sepi Shyne added. “I’m so glad you’re all out here. I’m glad West Hollywood supported it.”
Mayor Pro-Tempore Lauren Meister gave a public service announcement reminding the public to wear masks, practice social distancing in large crowds, and she urged everyone to get vaccinated. She said these safety measures would be the only way we’d get through the pandemic.
Mayor Horvath acknowledged West Hollywood city commissioners and board members present at the event. She thanked the city staff and the business community for participating in the program. “It’s taken a lot of people to make tonight happen and to make this weekend experience come together.” She said. “This is our launch. This will be our pilot program to continue this effort to bring people out to West Hollywood, to be able to safely gather and to bring back our businesses and our nightlife and to build community.”
Also in attendance were a representative from State Senator Sydney Kamlager’s office, Chair of the Los Angeles Democratic Party, Mark Gonzalez and CEO of Project Angel Food, Richard Ayoub.
In the midst of the celebration, there were those who stood on the sidelines in silent scorn during the ceremony. Some community members say the program seems to mostly benefit The Abbey franchise. They condemn the Out on Robertson pilot program for not being able to inspire other business to participate on its third weekend since its soft launch. Complainers have also called out the council for spending city resources on a program they feel is out of touch.
There are also those in the business community who don’t see the benefit of a street closure that draws walking traffic away from their storefronts, “Why would I pitch a tent on Robertson when I have my own business to tend to around the corner?” said one neighboring business owner who wished to remain anonymous. “The Chamber of Commerce wants us to sign up for the program, but they should call it for what it is, OUT on the Abbey.”
Naysayers aside, the atmosphere was festive at the official launch of OUT on Robertson and well attended. David Cooley was seen tending to tables and making sure everyone had a pleasant experience at OUT on Robertson.
Some attendees were also happy to see the city council out on the street celebrating the launch of anything after a year of closures. “It feels like we’ve been in a bunker for the past year,” said a person in attendance. “It is nice to see familiar faces after so long. This is the first time I’ve seen the entire City Council out together engaging with the community in over a year.”
The Out on Robertson pilot program had a soft launch on Saturday, April 17th. The City of West Hollywood began its OUT Zones program in August 2020. The program offers a streamlined approval for businesses to use sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and private parking lots as areas to expand operations. The program now expands with OUT on Robertson, a pilot program that closes N. Robertson Boulevard south of Santa Monica Boulevard and north of Melrose Avenue to vehicular traffic each Saturday and Sunday. The closure transform the restaurant/retail area into a pedestrian zone with COVID-19 safety protocols as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announces reopening guidelines allowing for higher numbers of patrons.