Pine Avenue open street

Pine Avenue downtown is closed to vehicles from First to Third streets, making way for outdoor restaurant seating.

Downtown Long Beach businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus-induced recession — but the struggling economy hasn’t resulted in a major surge of empty storefronts in the area.

That’s according to a retail market report the Downtown Long Beach Alliance published Wednesday, Oct. 21, that looked into how businesses in the neighborhood have fared so far this year.

Between January and June, the report found, retail sales in the area were down almost 50% — or $100 million — compared to the same period in 2019.

“Undoubtedly what we’re noticing in the Downtown retail sector is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on business operations,” DLBA Research and Policy Analyst Morris Mills said in a statement. “A citywide economic impact survey conducted earlier this year revealed that many businesses attributed losses in revenue to the health crisis.”

While some of those businesses have abandoned their storefronts amid the crisis, the vast majority of Downtown Long Beach’s retail space remains occupied.

About 34,000 square feet of retail space has been vacated without being leased since the beginning of January, according to the report. But the occupancy rate, the study found, is 93.6%, about average for the downtown.

Many businesses in the downtown have survived in part through layoffs. The Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s analysis found that food and hospitality businesses laid off or furloughed 22 employees per business on average; the next most impacted industry, personal grooming, laid off or furloughed an average of four employees per business.

Overall, 59% of retail businesses in the downtown area reported laying off employees due to revenue losses from the coronavirus, the report said.

Mills said the Downtown Long Beach Alliance plans to conduct another survey to gauge whether a rebound may be in the future for the area as restrictions on businesses intended to stem the spread of the coronavirus continue to ease.

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