Long Beach officials want more bars to reopen by turning into restaurants

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Health and Human Services Director Kelly Colopy said today that they’re meeting with local bar owners to find ways they can reopen safely even while bars are normally mandated to stay closed under the state’s tiered coronavirus monitoring system.

One possible way around this, however, is for bars to partner with approved restaurants to serve meals—essentially transforming them into dining establishments, which are currently open with outside seating and limited capacity.

“We are working with bars to see if there’s a way that some of them can be viewed as restaurants,” Garcia said during a press conference Wednesday. “We know that some bars that have kitchens have reopened, but if we can get some ability to have bars operate like restaurants and have a food component, that could be allowed by the state.”

The workaround to reopen bars is necessary because, as Garcia stressed, choosing which industries to close is a decision made by the state. Under California’s four-color tiered system, Long Beach still sits in the purple tier, which is used for counties experiencing the worst outbreaks with more than seven new daily cases per 100,000 residents and more than an 8% positive test rate.

Counties must be under those benchmarks for at least two weeks before other sectors—including school campuses—can reopen.

Long Beach, which is linked with Los Angeles County when it comes to reopening timelines, reported that an average of 4.3% of people tested were positive over the last seven days, and 8.3 cases have been reported on average each day per 100,000 residents. The county’s numbers, meanwhile, are a bit better: at a 3.2% positivity rate and 8.1 cases per 100,000 residents.

Garcia said he’s met with members of a recently created bar-owner coalition and that Colopy is set to meet with bar owners on Thursday.

Not many details were discussed about the potential partnerships that could form between bars and restaurants, and how operations would work between the businesses, but the mayor said it’s a priority for the city, calling bars an integral part of Long Beach’s fabric.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we lose our cultural icons,” Garcia said. “We will see if there’s a path forward. We are very optimistic that there will be.”

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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