Business Community Leaders Voice Concerns in Response to LA County’s Suspension of Outdoor Dining

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(L-R) Nick Rimedio, Colin Diaz, and Genevieve Morrill - Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

Members of the California Coalition for Safe Reopening joined Los Angeles County community business leaders at The Abbey Food & Bar in West Hollywood for a press conference today, to speak out against Los Angeles County’s order to suspend outdoor dining, effective tonight, at 10 p.m.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors met yesterday to discuss possible changes to the Health Officer order during its board meeting. The board rejected calls from the hospitality industry to pull back the restrictions on outdoor dinning as coronavirus cases continue to rise at an alarming rate.

Today’s press conference was led by President and CEO of West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Genevieve Morrill. Speakers included Colin Diaz (CEO of the Culver City of Commerce), John D’Amico and Lauren Meister (West Hollywood council members), Nick Rimedio (Chair of West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, GM La Peer Hotel), David Cooley (Owner of The Abbey}, Greg Horos, (owner of LoCali, which closed back in August, due to prior shutdowns) and Alexandra Kazarian (attorney).

Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

Morril said members of the California Coalition for Safe Reopening understand the necessity of closures and concerns for public safety, but they are frustrated with the lack of coordination of most recent closure orders with no real scientific data behind it, only assumptions. She said the coalition urges county and state to support the efforts to promote safe, organized, methodical, long term reopening solutions to keep our economy running.

She asked elected officials who have the power to make these decisions and livelihoods of hospitality workers to consider three things:

  • Create a reopening task force that include business sectors that would work directly with the state, county and local officials to identify sustainable and long term solutions to open and remain open during COVID-19, such as rapid testing, surrounding support with recovering centers while endorsing a COVID-safe certification program which includes COVID-safe training for employees, PPE supplies and protocols instituted and implemented, spaces reconfigured for safe seating, protective barriers and new technology in ventilation system as a way of retaining business operations with a COVID safe seal of approval.
  • As businesses try to find safe ways to operate, there is a need to expand resources and empowerment of local authority to make judgement calls that may not fit the broad sweeping protocols of sweeping sectors.
  • Lastly she called for the creation of a California COVID-19 emergency business interruption fund to provide grants to businesses to cover expenses related to the continual investments by businesses, as the government continues to open and close as seemingly the only methodology they have been coming up with in nine months.

“The business community understands how serious this virus is,” she said. “They believe in science. They operate and manage environments which are dictated by county, state, CDC, or Cal Osha. It’s endlessly confusing and convoluted of which to follow. Businesses and their employees are frightened. We hear their voices as they talk about their livelihoods. Business owners invested their life’s savings. On the eve of Thanksgiving holiday, businesses have to lay off hundreds, if not collectively thousands of employees. Their income has been impacted. They can’t pay their rent or mortgage. Where is the help for them?”

“While we mourn the lives lost, we cannot forget the living who are literally struggling to survive,” she added. “We believe in public health. Show us how managing lines in our place of business, ensuring our patrons are masked, ensuring our staff are well and tested and having our PPE available. How is this less safe than driving out of our safe businesses to unsafe private homes and backyard parties? We have invested tens of thousands of dollars. The gold post keeps shifting. Even a week ago, businesses that invested thousands on plexiglass barriers are now told it’s not good enough. It’s not enough of a six feet clearance. That is why we are here today. Our county and state have abandoned us. And we need your help. Our economy is now a public health issue as well. Your actions, government, are driving the unemployment. Your actions are impoverishing people, multiplying the problem with your solutions through economic hardships causing a depressed society, homelessness, vagrancy, mental health issues, domestic abuse tied to economic and mental issues, suicides—all caused, not by the pandemic alone, but by your actions and your lack of taking steps that secure long term solutions for a safe environments. Just checking the boxes off to show the public that you’re doing something is not enough. Businesses that don’t comply–shut them down, but the 80 percent that are complying, are investing every last ounce of dollars and sweat equity should be allowed to operate and stay solvent at the very least.”

Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

“The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation predicted that approximately 700,000 jobs in food industry would be lost during the shutdown.” Colin Diaz, told reporters. “The L.A. EDC also highlights that approximately 75 percent of those jobs are low income workers, displacing vulnerable members of our community during this pivotal time. Another Safer at Home Order, or similar restrictions placed on operations will continue to further exasperate this economic crisis and close business stores for good.”

Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

“We are good operators,” said David Cooley. “We go beyond the minimum guidelines to ensure our staff and our guests are safe. Putting over 300 hundred employees–not just here in our business–we have to think of the people who I’m order from, the people who are delivering, my janitorial crew who come here at night, there’s more than just people who work in this restaurant… those people are now out of a job. Right now the closure is for three weeks, but we know it will spread through New Years and it will probably put me out of business. Forever. Like many other small businesses. This is particularly hard for the hospitality industry going into the holidays. We’re more than just a restaurant, we’re a safe place for people to celebrate the holidays, especially the hospitality community and the LGBT community.”

Council member Lauren Meister Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

“The biggest problem that I see is people walking without masks and not socially distancing. It’s not our business community,” said council member Lauren Meister. “Look, there are bad players everywhere, and yes, those bad players should be shut down. What you see here when you walk through the city of West Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard, where we have the barriers, and we have the outdoor dining, you see that they are following the rules, because they want to stay in business and we want them to stay in business. The city has spent over a million dollars in rental assistance. We need help. If this is going to remain closed, we need our county and our state and our federal government to assist our businesses, to assist our residents, to assist unemployed people in this city and county and state.”

Alexandra Kazarian – Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

“We are here to take this fight to the courts to tell judges, ‘if you are going to enforce arbitrary rules, you need to enforce them to the government before you enforce them on people that are actually trying to comply,’” said attorney Alexandra Kazarian.

Members of the California Coalition for Safe Reopening are planning a COVID-safe march on Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 12 p.m. at a to-be-determined location. All business employees and employers impacted by layoffs are encouraged to join.

Community members are also reminded to support local restaurants that are still open and offering takeout and delivery during the outdoor dining restrictions.

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