Two prominent Long Beach businessmen led a march in the city Wednesday, challenging the basis for COVID-19 safety orders they say are detrimental to businesses, including the recent ban on in-person dining at restaurants.
Participants in the March to Save Small Businesses walked along Second Street from the shopping center at Second and Pacific Coast Highway through Naples and Belmont Shore.
The demonstration was organized by Ryan Choura, who runs a local event company, and Trent Bryson, CEO of Bryson Financial. They say the nonpartisan march was planned to demand accountability from city officials when it comes to justifying coronavirus safety orders that impact businesses.
“We want accountability from elected and appointed officials in Long Beach for their decision-making, especially around COVID-19,” Choura told City News Service. “We feel there are industries that are being unfairly targeted, not based on science or data — especially outdoor dining.”
Choura said there should be more rationale and transparency behind the decisions being made for businesses and schools.
“What you did the first time didn’t work — what is going to work about it the second time?” he asked about the response to the recent spike in coronavirus cases.
Dozens of people took part in the march, many expressing frustration about regulations they say are crippling business.
“Because the numbers are high, they’re closing restaurants,” one participant told ABC7. “And our frustration with that is, why is it just restaurants? What is it about restaurants? Do we have numbers supporting the fact that those are the (businesses) that are bringing COVID up?”
Belmont Shore Business Association executive director Dede Rossi said the group was not involved in planning the event, but she said she is “supportive of anybody who wants to help small businesses.”
Rossi said many business owners in the area are struggling to cope with ever-changing coronavirus safety protocols.
“It changes every day, and every day I get businesses calling asking if they are going to be shut down tomorrow,” she said.
Restaurants in Los Angeles County were ordered to halt in-person dining last week in response to a local and statewide surge in coronavirus cases. Long Beach, which has its own health department separate from the county, fell in line with the county and also banned in-person dining.
On Monday, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia proposed the creation of a $5 million relief fund to benefit restaurants, breweries and bars that have been closed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Restaurant, Brewery and Bar Resiliency Fund would be created through money the city expects to receive in a new federal coronavirus stimulus package.
“I spent four years waiting tables at local restaurants as a student at CSULB,” Garcia said in a statement. “That job got me through college and I know how painful and devastating these closures have been for our restaurants and bars. These small business owners are our neighbors and friends and we know that these closures have been horrific. As we work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 we are committed to helping them see this pandemic through and recover.”
According to Garcia, the $5 million would start the effort, but the amount could be increased based on the amount of money the city receives. The city council is expected to review that proposal Dec. 8.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has warned that a more sweeping stay-at-home order — similar to the one imposed at the onset of the pandemic — could soon be ordered in hard-hit counties, including Los Angeles. Virus cases have been spiking for weeks and, more importantly, so have hospitalization numbers, with officials saying intensive-care units could be overrun within weeks.
Long Beach health officials said Monday that patient numbers at Long Beach-area hospitals have grown by 366% since Nov. 1. As of Monday, 59% of Long Beach-area hospital beds were occupied, while intensive-care units were at 64% of total capacity.
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