Marching from Hollywood to Beverly Hills to call for a rollback of COVID-19 restrictions Saturday, business owners spoke of having to lay off staff to stay afloat and needing more aid from the government.
The rally organized by dozens of business chambers and commerce associations came as stores and eateries were grappling with a new regional-stay-at-home order brought on by a record-breaking coronavirus surge that’s hitting Los Angeles County particularly hard.
The new restrictions ban in-person dining and close hair salons, barbershops, card rooms, wineries, bars, breweries, distilleries, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums.
Organizers of Saturday’s march called the rules “cruel” and questioned the science behind them.
Demonstrators in the small crowd chanted “save our jobs” and “open and safe.” They wore bright green T-shirts reading “save small businesses” and “stop the closures.”
Manager of Beverly Hills restaurant Spago, Steve Springer, says he’s had to let 160 employees go.
“It’s an unbelievable situation,” Springer said. “It’s not sustainable. I mean, eventually, every restaurant is going to close — I mean you’ve already seen him dropping like flies.”
Walter Schild of Hinoki & the Bird restaurant says the situation is dire.
“We just had to lay off 40 more people and we now have five people left and we’re gonna lose the whole business,” Schild said.
L.A. County was offering $30,000 grants to restaurant owners affected by COVID-19 restrictions, but there was only a limited number of grants available.
Health officials say the closures are necessary.
One month ago, the five-day average of coronavirus cases was 2,134. Today it’s 10,034 — an increase of 370% in just one month, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
More alarming is that COVID-19 hospitalizations increased 303% and deaths increased 416% across the county in just 30 days.
“Right now, with the amount of community transmission of COVID-19, the transmission risk presented by outdoor dining at a table with others is simply too high and will result in additional cases that the hospital system soon will not be able to absorb,” the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Friday in a statement.
Los Angeles County suspended in-person dining on Nov. 25, saying the ban will last at least three weeks due to an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases. Before that, residents were only allowed to eat outdoors at restaurants — many of which had expanded onto sidewalks and brought canopies to comply with the rules.
A judge later limited the local dining ban to three weeks, saying the health department must conduct a risk-benefit analysis before trying to extend the restriction.
But L.A. County remains under the state’s stay-at-home order, which also bans in-person dining at restaurants until at least Dec. 27.