Roundup: Retailers in U.S. Southern California go outdoor to adapt to COVID-19 era

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by Julia PierrepontIII, Huang Heng

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- While most shopping malls, restaurants and other retailers are struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 crisis that has shuttered many businesses, some found a new way to adapt to this challenging time: going outdoor.

South Coast Plaza (SCP), one of the most famous luxury shopping destinations in Southern California, kicked off this weekend a collection of elegantly-designed, open-air luxury suites, dubbed The Pavilion, erected in their parking structure, which provide a safe and private one-on-one, in-person buying experience for high-end shoppers.

Up to 100 of 250 high-end boutiques in the biggest shopping mall in the West Coast are participating in this new and safer approach to reopening.

"We wanted to give our guests a way to shop in person safely from our boutiques that had to temporarily close to comply with Governor Newsom's order. We already offer curbside pickup with more than 100 participating boutiques," Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing and spokeswoman for South Coast Plaza, told Xinhua on Friday.

According to the guidance issued by the state government of California, counties on the County Monitoring List must close indoor operations for many business sectors, including shopping malls, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, gyms and fitness centers like yoga and dance studios, among others.

As of Sunday, there are 38 counties on the list, including every county in Southern California such as Los Angeles and Orange County where the SCP is located.

However, those sectors can remain open if they move operations outdoors.

The San Diego City Council unanimously passed measures last Tuesday extending the permits of local businesses to operate outdoors to help them survive the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the new regulation, the waiving of permitting requirements to allow restaurants and retail stores to conduct business on private parking lots, adjacent sidewalks and on-street parking areas was extended from 45 days to 10 months and 15 days.

In Santa Barbara, a coastal city renowned for the Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings with red-tile roofs in downtown, the city council voted unanimously late May to make about a mile of State Street, a main commercial artery, into a pedestrian promenade.

It allowed restaurants and bars to add seats and tables on the sidewalk, in the street and in parking lots and this move brought relief to many local restaurants, bars and shops which are suffering months-long pandemic and restrictions threatening to drive them out of business.

Then nail salons, a museum and even Yoga classes in the city, 150 kilometers north of Los Angeles downtown, went outdoor.

According to a report of local KEYT 3 news channel, at least three Yoga studios began their outdoor classes last month, and all of them ordered a speaker and mic to add to the outdoor experience.

"CorePower is all about community and there's no community if our doors are closed," CorePower co-owner Brandon Cox told KEYT 3. "We knew that we were allowed to do yoga outdoors."

Teachers and students get their temperatures taken before entering studio. Anyone with a fever will be kindly asked to leave, the report said, adding attendees must wear masks until they are seated or standing on their designated mat space.

Downing from the SCP also said the mall reopened certain areas for shopping, after taking advice from public health officials and top industrial hygienists, with "higher than ever standards for cleanliness" that include a state-of-the-art air treatment system, implementing social distancing practices, improving cleaning protocols, and disinfecting surfaces frequently throughout the center.

"Our ongoing commitment to your health and safety is unwavering," said the SCP spokeswoman.

There are also 30 restaurants of all kinds at the plaza and many of the outdoor venues have reopened their terraces and patios.

Those restaurateurs are adapting to the COVID-19 crisis together, some by helping each other keep their businesses open, Downing told Xinhua. In one instance, Chef Ross Pangilinan of Terrace by Mix Mix lent his open-air space to Chef James Hamamori of Hamamori Sushi to enable him to keep his business open.

In San Diego, about 200 permits allowing restaurants and retailers to open sidewalk cafes have been granted so far, the local The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper reported.

"Everything we can do to allow our small businesses to survive this pandemic, we should be doing," said Councilwoman Barbara Bry. Enditem

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