Mayor says bars, nail salons can open Friday; other businesses will have to wait a week

Starting Friday, bars, wineries, tasting rooms and nail salons will be allowed to reopen—though the city will move slower on other industries as officials monitor hospitalizations and new cases of COVID-19.

Mayor Robert Garcia said that the addition of nail salons, but not other personal care sectors, being added to the businesses allowed to reopen in Long Beach lags behind state and county guidance, but that decision was made purposefully by the city so it could review another week’s data from area hospitals.

“It is better to be cautious and it is better to be safe than to be in a situation where our hospitals are crowded and we can’t take care of a community member,” he said. “We just want to keep the community safe.”

Other parts of the personal-care industry will have to wait until next week to open, Garcia said. Massage businesses, waxing services and tattoo parlors will be allowed to reopen on June 26, which breaks with county guidance issued today that will allow those businesses to reopen June 19.

Bars that do open this week will be limited to 50% capacity. Additional guidance for bar reopenings is expected to be published by the city Thursday night.

Prior to this week, every county in Southern California except Los Angeles County has authorized the reopening of bars. The city and county decided to wait on bar reopenings until Friday.

Garcia noted that while individual cities can’t move faster than state guidelines, they can be more strict. But because Long Beach has its own health department, it can also deviate from guidance being issued by the county health officer.

The city’s health official cautioned that while bars and other businesses can reopen, they should only do so if they can comply with the safety guidelines. For bars that means restaurant style service with drinks being delivered to tables and no seating at bar tops or standing around by patrons.

All of these businesses will have to adhere to similar guidelines that restaurants follow, with employees wearing both face coverings and face shields and customers being socially distant and wearing masks as well.

The city is expected to publish details on how business owners can obtain free face shields from the city later in the day.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the first day of bar openings in San Diego County resulted in people being shoulder-to-shoulder with very few wearing masks in the Gaslamp District in Downtown San Diego, something local officials called “pretty bad.”

The announcement to expand the kinds of businesses that can open in Long Beach comes the same day that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring all Californians to wear masks in public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained.

While there has been some confusion over when people have to wear masks and when they don’t while visiting a local business, city officials said that the city does have plans to step up enforcement this weekend.

“When they’re walking into a restaurant they should be wearing one, but there are businesses that are not following all the protocols and it’s dangerous both to their staff and to customers as well,” Long Beach Director of Health and Human Services Kelly Colopy said. “For those who have been visited before [by an enforcement officer], there will be a stronger stance taken than before.”

Colopy said that the city is doubling its task force for enforcing these rules. Earlier this week LA County health officials reported that a canvassing of its local businesses showed that nearly half were not complying with guidelines set by its health officer.

As the city continues to reopen portions of its economy and more and more people and business owners feel safer to return to normal activities, Colopy said she wants them to compare it to the same risk as driving everyday.

“Is driving a car safe?” she said. “The way we make it safer is wearing a seatbelt.”

She compared masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer to the safety precautions installed in cars to make driving safer.

“We still think it’s safer to stay at home, but please stay aware of the risks,” Colopy said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.