Manhattan Beach City Council expresses support to fully reopen retail stores

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The Manhattan Beach City Council has asked county and state officials to allow retail businesses to fully reopen before the end of Memorial Day weekend.

The City Council made the request seeking immediate action in letters sent to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. Council members sought to permit the reopening of small retail businesses as they long as they operate under the same health and safety measures as retail businesses deemed “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, like Target, Walmart and Costco.

“The resulting economic injustice is unfair to our local mom and pop businesses that can just as easily follow the same health and safety protocols as the big box stores,” Mayor Richard Montgomery wrote in the letters. “They sell the same products and they should be allowed to follow the same rules. Limiting our small retailers to curbside only delivery is unjust and unsustainable.”

He noted that if small businesses aren’t allowed to compete with larger retailers, they could lose customers forever or potentially even be forced to close permanently.

The mayor said that businesses have told the city they likely would not survive past Memorial Day weekend if they aren’t allowed to expand operations beyond curbside pickup, which is all that L.A. County currently permits under rules set forth by California.

“They are faced with excruciating choices as they experience huge losses in income, unpaid bills, crush debt and increased hopelessness with each day that their businesses are not allowed to fully open,” he wrote.

Council members unanimously reinforced their support to eliminate of the curbside pick-up only requirement for retail shops at Thursday’s City Council meeting, according to a news release.

Hahn has backed the City Council, sending her own letter to Newsom seeking to amend the state’s order and allow retail businesses statewide to operate under the same health protocols as “essential” businesses.

Those safety guidelines would include limiting store capacity, requiring facial masks and adhering to physical distancing practices.

“[Small businesses] want to reopen for in-store shopping in a way that protects the health of their employees and customers, and I have heard from nearly all of the 27 cities that I represent about ways to support them in doing this,” Hahn wrote.

Newsom is reviewing the issue, according to the City Council’s news release.

In-store shopping not yet allowed in any part of L.A. County

As the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the state, L.A. County is among a handful of counties that have not been given the greenlight by the state to move deeper into Phase 2 of the governor’s plan to restart the economy.

Under the newly relaxed guidelines unveiled this week, retailers would be allowed to reopen earlier for in-store shopping.

In order to get the go-ahead from California officials, the counties must meet the following requirement set forth by the state: have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or a positivity rate of less than 8% among people tested for the virus; and have no more than a 5% increase in COVID-19 hospitalization over the course of a week or less than 20 people hospitalized per day in a period of two weeks.

As of Friday, L.A. County’s confirmed coronavirus case count stood at 43,052, with an additional 1,072 cases reported in the past 24 hours.

Manhattan Beach has had 76 confirmed cases, including two new ones in the last reporting period.

But without the ability to lift orders enacted by the state or county, council members said the city will continue to comply with the order, meaning the curbside-pickup regulations stand for now.

However, they remain hopeful that will change soon.

“City officials are guardedly optimistic the Governor will promptly take action in response to the Council’s and Supervisor Hahn’s pleas to level the playing field for our smaller retail businesses and allow them to serve customers in stores in a safe manner,” the council’s release stated.

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