Would you consider posting this as an udate to the article to make it clear that it was not an op-ed piece?
Dear WehoVille Readers,
I would like to make it clear that I did not write nor submit this article. I was interviewed but it was a press release drafted and submitted by a firm on behalf of the Pandemic Recovery Coalition, a 501 c 6 organization with a board of trustees supported by and working for a large number of businesses and residents in West Hollywood. It is not an opinion piece but a gathering of facts presented that reflect the reality that exists in West Hollywood.
That said, I would like to share some thoughts about this article herein:
One only need to look around to understand this reality. Flight cancellations, government travel restrictions and fears of COVID have resulted in a significant decline in travel and tourism to West Hollywood. With less people coming here, our local businesses also take a hit. Compounding this is the fear of contracting COVID among our local residents, keeping them close to home and away from restaurants, shops and anywhere where people gather. These businesses are also suffering from shutdowns resulting from workers contracting COVID. These points are irrefutable and the impacts are significant. Less customers means less revenue. Business shutdowns mean less revenue. More irrefutable facts. Businesses have fixed costs including rent, equipment leases, business insurance and health insurance. These costs must be paid, regardless of the revenue stream. One more irrefutable fact. So, with the significant decline in revenue streams and the financial obligations of fixed costs, where does the money come from to pay huge increases in labor costs AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME?
Drawing an analogy, assume your personal income declines by 40% (and I hope and pray you never experience this) How many of you would be able to cover your rent or mortgage payments? For how long? And what about your health insurance, auto insurance, etc.? It is no different. And if at the same time your landlord increased your rent by 30% (as our council has proposed with this minimum wage increase at this time), what would you do then? Without the income, you simply could not cover these costs for very long.
The Pandemic Recovery Coalition and our business community has repeatedly made it clear that we are NOT opposed to an increase in the minimum wage. In fact, we understand and support the need for an increase in livable workforce wages. We are very fortunate to live in a community where our businesses value and practice social awareness and social responsibility, perhaps more so than any other city in America. But just as you would not be able to afford to pay your rent and cover your costs if you were hit with a sudden and sustained cut in your income, our businesses cannot. WE HAVE NEVER EXPRESSED OPPOSITION TO AN INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE. WE HAVE ONLY ASKED FOR CONSIDERATION OF TIMING AND IMPLEMENTATION TO ALLOW BUSINESSES TO WEATHER THE STORM THAT THE PANDEMIC HAS BROUGHT UPON US. If they close, jobs simply disappear and that is a lose-lose for everyone.
Just as science matters in the ongoing debates about masks and vaccinations, facts and reality matter here. The fears of COVID and the reactions of our residents and travelers are all around you, plain to see. More people staying at home means less people out frequenting businesses. Pretty simple to understand.
Washington DC shows us the perils of a divided nation unwilling to discuss, compromise or even consider another point of view. But I truly believe that we are better than this. West Hollywood citizens have a level of compassion, empathy, awareness and intelligence unlike anywhere else. We are capable of critical thinking. We care. We understand the importance of supporting one another. And in this, we should be able to conquer the divides and agree on workable solutions to achieve the objectives we all seek. That is all we are asking for here.
By the Pandemic Recovery Coalition
Citing restaurant closures and significant reductions in dining traffic due to ongoing fears from COVID-19 variants omicron and delta, West Hollywood restaurants and small businesses continue to struggle to keep their doors open and serve customers. These concerns, demonstrated in the temporary closure of at least nine West Hollywood restaurants and clubs during the past two weeks, highlight the uncertain public health and business climate that exists in the small, 1.9 square-mile city known for its creativity, diversity and support for social justice.
Business community leaders and hundreds of owners and employees highlighted this uncertainty in at least two City Council meetings in October/November 2021 – uneasiness that was all but ignored by the West Hollywood City Council. In spite of near-unanimous concerns to these anti-business proposals and ignoring fears that the worst of COVID-19 remains, the five-member City Council unanimously approved measures that not only raise the cost of business but also, and more importantly, hurt West Hollywood residents.
“During the last two weeks, at least nine West Hollywood restaurants and clubs have closed their doors due to fears of omicron transmission,” said Keith Kaplan, head of the Pandemic Recovery Coalition. “These temporary business shutdowns foreshadow the reduced hours, staffing reductions and restaurant closures that will almost certainly occur in 2022 because of anti-business policies passed by the West Hollywood City Council.”
Earlier this year, hundreds of West Hollywood businesses voiced significant concern over City Council actions surrounding proposals to implement the nation’s highest minimum wage — a proposal that includes not only the nation’s highest minimum wage but also other “add-ons,” including over a month of employee time off, significantly increases the cost of doing business and do not benefit those workers who most need increased wages. Additionally, businesses expressed concerns for cuts in policing when crime is on the uptick with smash-and-grabs robberies and muggings, which the City Council also ignored, stating they were not happening in West Hollywood and were unfounded fears of our businesses and residents.
“West Hollywood businesses, by and large, support increasing the minimum wage and have advocated for social justice reforms,” added Genevieve Morrill, president and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “The WeHo Chamber recently launched a 501c3 Foundation to support minority entrepreneurs. Sadly, because of the City Council’s action, West Hollywood will become more expensive – a place where only corporations can open a business and where only the elite can shop and dine. Long-time residents, particularly senior citizens on fixed incomes, can no longer participate in civic life and, frankly, no longer feel safe.”
“To save as our business, we had to raise our prices, reduce employee hours, layoff staff, and invest in automation. We have already taken these steps to survive and save as many jobs as possible. Labor is the largest expense for restaurants,” concluded Walter Schild, owner of Rosaline restaurant. “What’s worse, the City Council ignored business pleas that the worst of COVID was not behind us — facts borne out by the rapid spread in the number of omicron cases.”
West Hollywood businesses, particularly the city’s small family-owned businesses, including BIPOC, LGBTQ and minority-owned, already endure high and/or past-due rents because of COVID. They have all suffered under government-imposed COVID-19 shutdowns. Ignoring these on-going struggles, the West Hollywood City Council recently approved the highest minimum wage in the country, a law that goes into effect on January 1, 2022, and will further exacerbate anti-business conditions in West Hollywood.