Kalmick asks city to help businesses

Sunny and warm weather drew crowds to Main Street on Saturday, May 16, where people were seen window shopping. Some retailers offered curbside service while others allowed limited numbers of customers to shop inside stores. File photo by Jeannette Andruss

Councilman asks for plan to assist Seal Beach businesses impacted by COVID

Seal Beach Mayor Pro Tem Joe Kalmick has asked the city to develop a plan to help local businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that the city needs to take a look at what we can do as a city to help promote the stability and future success of all of our businesses,” Kalmick, whose district covers Main Street, said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Kalmick wants to focus on long-term and short-term measures to help businesses citywide, including exploring options for more outdoor seating for restaurants. He also wants a marketing strategy developed to attract customers to Seal Beach.

He asked staff to bring back an agenda item as soon as possible with a plan and budget to what the effort might cost.

Kalmick said that the main thrust of his idea is to see what the city can do to help all businesses overcome being shut down and reopening with restrictions.

Some local businesses are now back open with modifications after being shuttered or limited in operation since mid-March. That’s when Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus was enacted.

Now in Phase 2 of the Governor’s Resilience Roadmap, restaurants and retailers are transitioning to allow customers back inside their establishments while abiding by new rules requiring social distancing and increased health and sanitation procedures.

That includes restaurants limiting seating to maintain 6-feet of separation between customers and workers.

On a Facebook page for Seal Beach restaurants, posts popped up this week from diners eating at 320 Main and Avila’s El Ranchito, among others.

In an interview Wednesday morning, Kalmick said city staff is already hard at work, noting officials were measuring sidewalks on Main Street this week to see if tables could legally be placed there. There’s also an idea for the city to set up tables in some municipal parking lots during weekend evenings for people to eat takeout.

There’s a lot of debate about creating outdoor dining spaces, especially in Old Town where parking can be limited. Leaders are trying to balance the needs of all businesses.

“There are a lot of hurdles to overcome,” Kalmick admitted pointing to maintaining traffic flow and parking access in Old Town. “It’s a fine line that we’re walking.”

Kalmick first publicly announced his effort earlier Tuesday at the end of a livestreamed ZOOM call with two longtime Main Street restaurant owners moderated by Seal Beach realtor and resident Nat Ferguson.

The Abbey owner Tom Rowe and Taco Surf owner Lisa Rodden were on the call sharing their experiences.

Rowe said a big challenge is running his restaurant with 100% of the expenses and only 50% of the business. “I don’t see that sustaining six months from now,” he said.

Both said reopening under the new restrictions presents a lot of challenges and will change the dining experience for customers and how workers do their jobs.

“The food quality hasn’t changed. Other than that, everything [has],” Rowe said.

Rodden said to expect longer wait times since there are fewer tables.

Both encouraged people to continue to order takeout as that is what will help them sustain.

Rowe and Rodden said putting tables outside their restaurants would help their business, but they do not want to do so if it’s detrimental to their neighbors.

“I want to see everyone on Main Street doing well,” Rodden said. Rowe echoed her sentiment saying everyone needs to work together to keep Main Street alive.

Kalmick asks city to help businesses