Parklets

Customers dine on the new parklet at Saint & Second in Belmont Shore, one of several installed throughout Long Beach to expand socially-distant seating capacity.

If there was any good news in Long Beach Monday following Gov. Gavin Newsom's rollback to stricter coronavirus restrictions, it was that most of the city had been experiencing them since July 1.

On Monday, July 13, Newsom extended bans on indoor dining, bars and indoor entertainment statewide. He already had imposed those restrictions on counties with resurgent COVID-19 cases on July 1, just before the Fourth of July weekend. That included Los Angeles County and Long Beach.

Newsom added closures of gyms, hair salons, churches, indoor malls and non-essential offices to Monday's order. Closing personal services such as hair salons was particularly hard, since those businesses were only allowed to open three weeks ago.

"As an affected business owner, I can say that this announcement is devastating because many businesses that reopened have been working diligently to stay prudent and cautious," said Councilwoman Suzie Price, who, with her husband Mark, owns the Lash Lounge in Belmont Shore. "The impact of this, to the businesses and the small business owners, is going to be devastating and far reaching."

Price said she couldn't argue with the figures, though. California as a whole has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and Long Beach is no exception. On Monday, 97 people were hospitalized with coronavirus-related diseases, the highest number yet.

"Wear our damn masks," was Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeremy Harris's reaction. "The numbers are what the government's going to look at, and the numbers are rising… If you didn't learn in July 1 when we shut back down, learn it this time. We have to believe it to take control."

Lua Tran, owner of Long Beach Market Nails & Spa, explained how painful it will be to comply with the new order.

“Its really hard, we’ve just barely opened for three weeks, and we’ve been limited to 30% of our customers inside," she said. "We spent $5,000 (implementing safety features). We’ve followed all the rules. We normally have 10 chairs, but we’ve cut back to five chairs. I don’t know how we’re going to get through this.”

While the addition of bans on gyms, churches, hair salons and other indoor businesses is new, it still isn't as bad as the original Stay at Home orders of March and April, which shut almost all businesses down. For example, Kurt Schneiter, co-owner of the Iconix Fitness Center in east Long Beach, said he would take advantage of the distinction between indoor and outdoor activity. He pushed the limits of bans in May with rooftop workouts.

"Iconix is prepared for whatever life throws at us," he said. "Because of our amazing front yard, we are able to take advantage of beach workouts. We're also able to use our other outdoor areas (rooftop and alley) for classes and weight lifting… We are prepared to keep Belmont Shore moving and are committed to our community's physical and mental well-being."

While bars are closed, bars with food service can still serve customers outside — and the city has helped with its Open Streets policy creating temporary seating.

"The community has been so supportive of the restaurants in the Shore, we’re eternally grateful," said Matt Peterson, co-owner of Legends and chair of the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Advisory Commission. "The open streets concept in the Shore has made a big difference, we can serve our community and be outside safely. It's a completely different atmosphere."

Ron Hodges, owner of Shannon's Corner in downtown Long Beach, said he's serving on his patio, but the close-open-close cycle has to stop.

"(The city) obviously reopened too soon," Hodges said. "It hurts to be closed, but it hurts worse to close down and then start up again, and then close again soon after. You could see it coming with the pressure the governor was under…

"I just don't know where it goes from here," he added. "They’re saying three weeks ’til we reopen and that's just silly, they’re just saying that so they don’t get blowback. I can't see it being less than at least two months."

Hunter Lee contributed to this report.

 

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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