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After a nearly 3-month hiatus, Los Angeles allows businesses to reopen and owners are hoping the crowds will return. (Photo provided by the City of West Hollywood)
Feeling the pressure of a struggling economy, West Hollywood businesses are eager to finally reopen, after several weeks of shutdowns. Amid new safety rules, the long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest have resulted in a mixture of fear and uncertainty within the community,
“I’m excited for our businesses, but I’m also worried about them,” said Genevieve Morrill, President and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “While it seems almost impossible to move forward without fearing the pandemic or fear of looters, many are. “
Morrill is concerned that Weho establishments will be able to handle all the protocol necessary to keep employees and the public safe, and at the same time break even and not incur more losses.
“Nonetheless, I am happy that there are many businesses that can start to generate income.
They were closed for months, only to reopen one day and close again due to threats of vandalism, ”she noted.
“Walks and demonstrations are necessary and our company supports the Black Lives Matter movement and wants to get involved. But they are also stretched to the maximum – they need immediate relief.
Morrill hopes more jobs will come to the area.
“Some companies have received PPP loans allowing them to rehire. With the recent amendment to the PPP loan policy, this is a much needed adjustment to allow rehiring, ”she said.
Weho Bars, Restaurants, Jobs
Restaurants and bars in West Hollywood are opening with cautious optimism, warns hospitality recruiter Wendy Tuttle.
“They will assess demand and hire / bring back staff as appropriate. Most are chomping at the bit to get back to work. There are others who may have underlying health issues or live with family members who might be reluctant to return for fear of contracting Covid-19. “
Tuttle customers are “eagerly awaiting” these calls to return to work.
“My people want to hear ‘we are open’. We have all the plans in place to ensure your safety and that of your guests. so they can get back to work, do what they love: create great food, while providing an amazing experience with their friends, family and community.
Restaurants like Conservatory are planning to fully open their premises, with a full menu of food and drink, waiters, host / hostess.
“Conservatory is delighted to reopen to the community and take all measures to ensure the safety of our employees and guests,” said owner Paul Kalt.
Kait feels “lucky” that the restaurant’s street side cafe with a pick-up window has been opened.
“This has allowed customers to keep their daily routine for coffee, cocktails and food, take out and delivery. Although we have greatly lacked in all of our catering capabilities, we have been able to maintain continuous service and as much of a sense of normalcy as possible in these unprecedented times. “
For Pride Month, Conservatory has created special cocktails for the month of June. For their For The Love Wins package – the six cocktails offered in a $ 70 package – a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.
George Figares, Managing Director of Fiesta Cantina Weho is also delighted to be back. “WeHo has been dark for too long and we’re happy to bring Fiesta back to WeHo! They offer a happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m. everyday.
The comfort of the guests is the number one priority of Figares.
“First and foremost, public safety is our top priority. Ensuring everyone’s safety throughout our reopening is essential. We want everyone to come out and enjoy the community, but in a way that doesn’t encourage the spread of the pandemic. “
He continued, “We hope that by following the strict guidelines set by state and county health departments, we can operate in a manner that is safe for our employees and guests.”
Many bars in West Hollywood have found a way to open up, serve food, and adhere to social distancing rules. Rocco’s, The Abbey, Beaches, Fiesta Cantina and others have reopened with social distancing rules in place and food as the centerpiece.
David Cooley recently told the Los Angeles Blade, “We scan everyone’s temperature, need masks, and have social distancing table rules in place,” he said.
On a recent mid-day stroll through WeHo, every bar we visited also strictly enforced the new rules. But the crowds are huge. At least one of these companies has been cited for its overcapacity since the implementation of the new reduced enumeration rules.
“RJ Holguin, director of marketing and outreach at My 12 Step Store, has mixed feelings about reopening the Weho businesses.
“I am for it but I think it is better to move forward with a lot of caution. People are so eager to get out that they are willing to take a risk, ”said Holguin.
The store remained open online and it was Holguin’s saving grace.
“We are now open to in-store purchase with all guidelines, but we still recommend that people order online and pick up or use our curbside service. It is very difficult to keep in-store shopping with regulations and operate with fewer employees.
Last summer, the store was expanded to provide a better shopping experience.
“In order to meet our expectations, we needed to increase our in-store sales by 30%, which we started doing during the holiday season. But at the end of March, we were losing 100% of our in-store sales due to the shutdown, which was a huge financial blow, ”said Holguin.
While it’s been “a year of lemons,” Holguin has consistently found ways to make happy lemonade.
“We posted a weekly blog post on the emotional effects on 12-step recovery and offered free reunion chips to newcomers to the area. Our Facebook page contains constant updates on our outreach program, ”he said proudly.
During the Black Lives Matters protests, Holguin and his team painted supportive graffiti on their store. Protesters stopped to take photos and offered words of support.
West Hollywood dogs have yet to get the green light to play together, but grooming services are available at daycares like Dog-E-Den.
“We miss our staff, our customers and the dogs we have come to know and love to take care of,” said owner Gene Barash.
The pandemic made operation impossible for about two months, and Barash had to shut down the store completely. “We started to reopen with reduced days / hours, but then the protests forced us to close for a few days. Fortunately they were very quiet after the first few days so we reopened yesterday. We have a fairly high level of confidence that the protests will not have a disruptive impact on our business. “
Over the past 3 months, Barash has received a lot of calls and emails from clients letting them know they are eagerly awaiting the daycare reopening and eager to be able to bring their dogs back.
“We really appreciate their support and encouragement and we consider ourselves lucky to have such positivity from our community, especially in these incredibly difficult times.”
Gyms haven’t been able to open yet, but Brendon Ayanbadejo, President of Fitness at West Coast Fitness, the franchisee of Orangetheory Fitness, has been working hard to get his studios ready.
“We are looking forward to opening our Weho studio and the rest of our locations across California. The health and safety of our team and members is always our number one priority. We also know that health, fitness, physical activity and community are essential for a healthy immune system and mental health. So we feel excited and ready to get people back to doing what they love once we get the green light. “
The state of California last week announced guidelines for a 6/12 state reopening date for gyms and fitness studios.
“However, the county decides when we will be allowed to open, based on their assessment of health, risk, etc.” he explained. “We are digesting state guidelines and waiting to hear from health and county government officials on specific dates when we will be allowed to open each studio.”
Economically, closing their business has of course been a challenge, said. Ayanbadejo. “But, we are in the same boat as so many others. Beyond any economic impact of the pandemic and especially here in our Los Angeles home, the pro-Black Lives Matter protests have uplifted our community and opened our collective eyes to the role and responsibility we need to play.