As vaccinations increase and COVID-19 infections and deaths decrease, residents and visitors are returning to a more normal life in Los Angeles County, and that’s especially true in Beverly Hills.
“It’s thrilling. It really feels extremely positive,” Mayor Robert Wunderlich said. “We’re thrilled that visitors are back, that residents are back to patronize our shops and restaurants. I encourage everybody to walk our streets. There’s such a wonderful energy out there and we’re managing to do that in a way that we’re adhering to the appropriate COVID safeguards.”
Wunderlich noted that while Beverly Hills has handled the economic issues caused by the pandemic better than many other cities, some businesses and the city as a whole were impacted by reduced tax revenue, and the return of shoppers and hotel guests will assist the city in its economic recovery.
“We’re optimistic with this reemergence,” Wunderlich said. “We already see the impacts in our restaurants and our shops and we can hope that as it continues to be safe, our hotels will return to normal.”
The reemergence is also taking place on one of Beverly Hills’ most famous landmarks, Rodeo Drive, where Mark Tronstein, principal of the real estate firm Rodeo Drive Associates and an executive board member for the Rodeo Drive Committee, has seen a “noticeable increase” in shoppers and visitors as the number of vaccinations has gone up.
“I think people have been cooped up in their homes for 12 months and they’re absolutely ready to get out and shop and dine, and they’re excited about it,” he said.
Kathy Gohari, president-elect of the Rodeo Drive Committee, also noticed the resurgence, especially at the end of March.
“I looked around and there were families, there were couples strolling up and down Rodeo Drive,” she said. “Even though it wasn’t as busy as it usually was, it was nice to see a little bit of what we are known for.”
Rodeo Drive was impacted like many retail areas, Tronstein said, but it only lost two tenants – Lacoste and Tumi, though he noted “it’s hard to pinpoint the pandemic as the cause” – and the famed shopping area continues to attract new businesses, such as the planned hotel Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills.
“Certainly, [with Rodeo Drive Associates being] one of the oldest landlords on the street, it’s very positive,” Tronstein said. “With the amount of capital businesses are investing into their spaces and with the businesses also controlling their own destiny by purchasing real estate on Rodeo Drive, I think it shows the strength and the longevity of the street.”
The businesses are also receiving some help from the city. Wunderlich cited some of the city’s pandemic-related initiatives, such as OpenBH, which the council voted on May 4 to extend until the end of the year and potentially make permanent. Other initiatives include Beverly Hills Small Business week, which is being celebrated this week, May 3-7.
“It really is the small businesses and the distinctiveness of our small businesses that helps Beverly Hills to thrive, and that’s both to be attractive to visitors and to provide an attractive experience for our residents. Those distinctive small businesses are the backbone of our community,” Wunderlich said.
Gohari added that the Rodeo Drive Committee is also working to bring customers back. They’ve partnered with the Beverly Hills Police Department to increase public safety after the Il Pastaio shooting on nearby Canon Drive in March, and there will be special events on Rodeo to attract visitors, such as a car rally to be held on Father’s Day.
“We’re planning to be optimistic and plan to have experiential activities and installations to continue on Rodeo Drive for the rest of the year,” she said.
Wunderlich emphasized the safe nature of the city’s reopening – masks are mostly required indoors, for the unvaccinated and for large groups of people outdoors – and said he hopes the initiatives such as OpenBH continue post-pandemic.
“We’re not engaging in overcrowding, but people are really enjoying the possibility of again being out with their family members, out with their friends, to be able to take advantage of the times we missed out on during this long, tough year of the pandemic, and we implemented a variety of changes,” he said. “OpenBH is a pilot program, and I think it provides a great example of people getting to experience something new, realizing that they greatly enjoy it and for the city to be moving in a direction of, how can we keep this permanent for the future.”
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