On Nov. 24, in an effort to combat rising COVID-19 infections, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to keep in place a three-week ban on outdoor dining, limiting local restaurants, bars and wineries to takeout and delivery orders. Supervisors Kathryn Barger, 5th District, and Janice Hahn, 4th District, voted to allow outdoor dining to continue.
“There is no data to support closing dining establishments, which makes this an arbitrary and capricious restriction – especially the day before Thanksgiving,” Barger said in a statement. “Furthermore, this action will only further encourage individuals to participate in private gatherings, without any of the necessary public health safety measures, which is where the virus is more likely to spread.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, 2nd District, said in a statement that his vote to prohibit outdoor dining was intended to “cause the least amount of permanent, irreversible harm to our residents.”
“These are not decisions that we have made lightly,” he said. “We are acutely aware of the compromises all Angelenos have been forced to make in order to protect the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, as we seek to balance the public health and economic health of our region, there is no win-win outcome. There are downsides to every decision.”
Economic leaders, however, say those downsides are too steep a price to pay for many business owners.
Todd Johnson, president and CEO of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, said the outdoor dining prohibition will “hurt quite a bit” for an industry that is already “suffering tremendously.”
“There are a number of restaurants I’ve spoken to who had already gotten their Thanksgiving food supply in. For instance, Lawry’s [the Prime Rib]. Lawry’s had 700 reservations for Thursday, of which now, they’re trying to talk 700 people into doing takeout,” Johnson said. “The food outlets aren’t going to take the food back, so the restaurants have all this food that they planned on, obviously a lot of turkey, Thanksgiving items, stuffing, things most places don’t normally carry, so they’re going to have the challenge of this not going to waste.”
Steve Kramer, president of the Greater Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that he’s not a medical professional, but he thinks the board of supervisors acted “prematurely” on outdoor dining.
“Give restaurants a chance to have some viability before they go permanently out of business,” Kramer said.
Rana Ghadban, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said that she appreciated the efforts by Barger and Hahn to keep restaurants open, but the failure of the motion is “devastating.”
“It’s devastating not only for the restaurants, but it’s devastating for the employees who are going to be laid off right around the holidays … They’re not going to have an income for financial support, they’re going to have to wait for unemployment to process their claims,” she said.
Genevieve Morrill, president and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, added that the timing of the closure “is absolutely cruel” given the beginning of the holidays and the recent investments by many restaurants to purchase additional equipment to make outdoor dining safer and more feasible.
“Right now, we know that we’re going to have to lay off thousands of employees right at the Thanksgiving holiday. They’re terrified. They can’t pay their December rent. They’re worried about how they’re going to feed their families. The outdoor dining is the only source of income for these businesses to try to survive,” she said.
The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is planning a march to oppose the outdoor dining closures, Morrill added.
Ghadban said the Hollywood Chamber supports Barger’s effort to reallocate $10 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – or CARES Act – for financial relief for restaurants, breweries and wineries that have to cease outdoor dining service.
“We hope the county board of supervisors, who expressed their sadness for our restaurants and their employees, [provide] the financial support to keep these businesses alive,” Ghadban said.
Several local business groups are trying to assist their non-restaurant members as well, as those businesses face restrictions of their own through Dec. 21. Non-essential indoor businesses, such as retail stores, offices and personal care services, are limited to 25% of their maximum capacity. Grocery stores and convenience stores are limited to 50% of their maximum capacity. In addition, personal care establishments must require appointments, and services that require removing a mask, such as facials and shaves, are prohibited.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has launched explorehollywood.com to attract visitors and customers to its member businesses, with plans for a discount card next year.
The Hollywood Partnership, which manages the Hollywood Entertainment District property business improvement district, is using a similar digital strategy. Davon Barbour, the vice president of advocacy and economic development for the Hollywood Partnership, said the group’s website, hollywoodpartnership.com, now features profiles of area small businesses and lists nearby businesses so customers can patronize more than one during trips to Hollywood.
“What’s great about the newly deployed website, when you search for an individual business, once you pull up that business name, you’re able to see in close proximity any food establishments or retail options to enhance your experience,” Barbour said.
Now more than ever, getting customers to spend at small businesses will be vital, many of the economic leaders said.
“Some of the small business that don’t have such a big presence in e-commerce, and many retailers and restaurants bank on the last four to six weeks of the year, it can be anywhere from 40% to 90% of their yearly budget is attained in the last four to six weeks of the year, when this is happening,” Johnson said.
Barbour said research shows that a majority of people plan to shop this upcoming weekend – which includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, when many retailers offer discounts and other deals to encourage customers to begin their holiday shopping. With many businesses struggling, Barbour said it’s “vitally important” that people continue to patronize retail businesses.
“The one thing about retail is it fulfills our basic needs as well as our emotional needs. Retail therapy is real and people want a sense of normalcy. This is a big weekend not only for L.A., but for the entire country, with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and we know that consumers are eager to shop,” he said.
Johnson said it’s important for everyone “to shop local and support their cities, wherever they reside, and try to help the businesses, both restaurant and retail, during what’s supposed to be the most festive time of the year.”
“I think we all need to be grateful for what we have, and thankful more than ever this year. We’ve got to stay positive and we’ve got to keep moving forward, and eventually, we’ll get past this, but there are going to be some pretty big bumps we have to continue to get past in order to make that happen,” he said.
The Beverly Hills City Council will discuss the closure at the Dec. 1 meeting.
This article was updated at 9:59 a.m. on Nov. 27 to clarify a quote from Rana Ghadban.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.