Local businesses brace as COVID-19 prompts bar, restaurant closures

Businesses will still be open and encourage residents to order take-out food or purchase gift cards.

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[Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a list Bixby Knolls businesses that are open and the services they are providing. Visit that list by clicking here.]

Long Beach City officials unveiled a new set of restrictions Monday, March 16 that impacts businesses and the city braces for another week of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday afternoon, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia hosted a press briefing about COVID-19 updates.

Long Beach officials asked bars, breweries, nightclubs and restaurants to close or transition toward a “to-go” take-out system to further reduce the public’s possible exposure to the virus.

For business owners, the new restrictions creates an ever-expanding cloud of unease with no clear end in sight.

Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA), said he was preparing for a series of conference calls with the mayor to inform business owners.

“It’s a moving target,” Cohn said. “Every day and every hour there’s so much uncertainty with the business owners.”

With 871 businesses cataloged in its directory, Cohn and the BKBIA made sure to reach out to the neighboring local business owners, to hop on the call too, because it could impact their livelihoods as uncertainty rises as the spread of COVID-19 continues.

“[There’s] fear and concern about everything from, ‘what can we do, what are we allowed to do, can we be open or not, what about my employees without rent.’ How long will this go?” Cohn said. “I mean, it’s just heart-wrenching trying to give answers you don’t have.”

Cohn said the best thing residents could do to support businesses was to buy gift cards from local restaurants and prepay for haircuts from nearby solons.

Despite pleas from state leaders to not “panic buy,” or purchase more supplies that needed as the nation’s supply chain is still intact, images have surfaced across social media showing large-chain grocery store shelves empty.

Cohn suggested that folks could buy supplies from local boutiques that sell soaps and other disinfecting products. Small convenience stores could also hold items that larger chains have not restocked on yet.

“You know, The Merchant is is baking bread, and they’re going to kind of shift into doing a lot of loaves of bread for sale there, which is great,” Cohn said. “As far as other supplies, [you] want to go into some of the boutiques, you know they have all kinds of soaps. Up and down the corridor even beyond us into North Long Beach or other parts of the town–– when you go into smaller bodegas–– there’s fruits and there’s supplies that are not overtaken. Even the convenience stores at gas stations may still have some supplies you’re looking for. So, you don’t necessarily have to go around. Just be willing to try something different.”

Farm Lot 59, an inner-city farm on the border of Signal Hill and Long Beach, could also be impacted by the recent restrictions.

Farm Lot 59 owner Sasha Kanna told the Signal Tribune that her business model mostly relies on restaurant sales.

“We are going to be struggling like all other small businesses,” she said.

The farm will not be selling produce to the public during the spring season, as the farm works to replant warm-weather crops.

“If this crisis continues we will of course reconsider offering our produce to the public,” Kanno said.

As the virus spreads through LA County, data collected from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine shows that over 70,000 people have recovered from the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency continues to urge people to avoid public contact, social distancing, as much as possible to reduce the amount of infectious people to reduce strain on the country’s medical system.

Check the CDC’s website for up-to-date information.

“I don’t know where I am–– I don’t know what world this is, I don’t know what planet I’m on and I’m in the twilight zone,” Cohn said. “This is just so bizarre and disturbing. All we need to do is try our best to get the most accurate info out, and then share several silver linings where we see them or create them.”