Come January, Long Beach may be infused with $5 million stimulus for local restaurants

At their Tuesday, Dec. 8 meeting, the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a recommendation to create a $5 million fund for restaurants, breweries and bars with second-round federal stimulus funds. (Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

With a presumed second round of federal stimulus around the corner, the Long Beach City Council voted to proactively allocate those funds towards local restaurants.

At their Tuesday, Dec. 8 meeting, the council unanimously approved a recommendation to direct the city manager to create a $5 million restaurant, brewery and bar resiliency fund.

Mayor Robert Garcia, who has been in talks with the incoming presidential administration, expressed confidence that a second economic stimulus package is on its way.

“Obviously our restaurants, bars and the industry are in great need of additional financial support and obviously not just in Long Beach but statewide,” Garcia said, hinting that the stimulus package may exceed $5 million. “There is a big movement in trying to get that support in place.”

The move comes just days after Los Angeles County issued their second stay-at-home order. The new order closes in-person dining, a source of revenue that many restaurants have relied upon to remain open.

The creation of a stimulus fund won resounding support from councilmembers. Councilmembers Mary Zendejas, Suzie Price, Daryl Supernaw and Stacy Mungo all signed on to the recommendation.

“The reality is, we’ll never be exactly where we were but we want to put people back on their feet and restore our prosperity as a city,” Mungo said. “This will get us there because we are built on small businesses and the workers that work for them.”

Restaurant industry has been hit hardest by pandemic

Businesses nationwide are feeling the effects of the pandemic. According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report, restaurants have been hit hardest by the pandemic, with 32,109 closures nationwide as of August 31. Of these, 61% are indicated to be permanent.

Los Angeles landed the top spot for the city with the highest number of business closures nationwide, with 7,500 permanent closures and 7,500 temporary closures.

California had the largest number of business closures, with 19,200 permanent closures and 19,900 temporary closures statewide.

These numbers only represent closures as of August 31, before the COVID-19 surge that took place following Thanksgiving and the subsequent stay-at-home order.

Their financial strain is compounded by the fact that in-person dining constitutes a potential threat to personal health.

Director of Health and Human Services Kelly Colopy said that restaurants were the only business where a group could gather maskless and sit a foot away from each other. In addition, in-person dining often involves a one- to two-hour maskless time frame for potential exposure.

With an estimated 50% of COVID-19 transmissions coming from presymptomatic and asymptomatic carriers, Colopy said that the activity itself was an “exposure risk.”

$5 million stimulus not the first, nor will it be the last of funding for local businesses

The recommendation represents the most recent of a flurry of stimulus packages for business owners. So far, the City has provided small business grants, small business loans, business license and fee deferrals, a business license tax and fee grant program and a CARES Act bid grant program.

In unison with these efforts, a federal stimulus package could provide much-needed support for struggling businesses of all types.

“It’s very important that we be very clear in this situation. Long Beach restaurants and businesses are needlessly suffering due to COVID,” Zendejas said. “Without the action of our federal government, we as a city only have so much ability to provide assistance as we try to prevent the spread from this deadly virus.”

Mungo pointed out that, in addition to the $5 million stimulus plan for restaurants, the council has another $5 million plan for personal services and fitness providers on next week’s agenda.

“If you only read this to be restaurants, it’s only one piece of a big puzzle. There [are] lots of industries that need help,” Mungo said. “We will work tirelessly to make sure that we’re in a better position when the next [relief package] comes forward, that we really know and understand the needs of each industry.”

The next Long Beach city council meeting will take place Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.

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