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With City Council Support, Manhattan Beach Retail Stores To Open Doors

May 21, 2020 10:24PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Participants in Tuesday's rally show support for Manhattan Beach businesses.

The Manhattan Beach City Council on Thursday morning supported lifting the "curbside only" restriction on retail businesses in Manhattan Beach, effectively giving city shopkeepers a green light to open for business as the busy Memorial Day weekend begins.

The motion was approved unanimously, 5-0.

"All retail businesses large and small deserve an even playing field and a fighting chance," said council member Steve Napolitano, who introduced the resolution. "These are more than businesses - they are people and lives and livelihoods."

Retail businesses have been limited since May 8 to curbside service only, as per state orders. The city of Manhattan Beach this week issued a request to the governor's office - with support from L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn - to lift the curbside-only restriction.

However, while the city council advocated lifting retail restrictions in its Thursday vote, the council itself does not have the power to lift those restrictions. 

City officials released a statement with the following explanation: "The city of Manhattan Beach did not enact these health orders and does not have the ability to lift the orders enacted by the state of California or the county of Los Angeles. As such, 'non-essential' retail businesses are currently subject to the restrictions requiring curbside pick-up only until the state and county orders are lifted. 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."

City Council Secures Hahn's Support

Over the past several weeks, a chorus of protests from local business owners has grown louder in reaction to the state's limits on retail businesses. While "big box" stores such as Target or Home Depot have remained open under the "essential" category, local "mom-and-pop" stores that sell many of the same items have been restricted to curbside pickup only. 

Many local Manhattan Beach business owners, who joined in a rally at City Hall on Tuesday, said that their businesses were on the brink of failure if the city did not do something to help them return to more normal operations. 

On Tuesday, the council had voted to bring a letter directly to the county asking for support to allow all retail businesses to open their doors, with health and safety precautions in place.

In the letter, Mayor Richard Montgomery wrote to County Supervisor Hahn, “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. 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.”

Hahn agreed, and she in turn wrote to California Governor Gavin Newsom supporting the effort. 

“What seemed to be a necessary measure at the early onset of this crisis has unintentionally created winners and losers in this ‘pandemic economy,’ with large retail businesses able to operate, while small retail businesses are struggling and limited to curbside pickup,” said Hahn in a statement on Thursday. “This needs to change.”

In her letter, Hahn proposed updating the state’s public health order to immediately allow all retailers to open with limited capacity, with face coverings or masks required for employees and customers, and mandatory physical distancing.

“If these measures are working to keep essential retail businesses like Target, Home Depot, and Costco open and safe, they can certainly be applied to all retailers,” said Hahn.

At press time, there was no response yet from the governor's office.

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