Easing Back to Normal

Few retailers participate in city’s ‘soft opening’; council opens Rose Bowl loop with conditions

A drive through the city’s main business districts Sunday was akin to visiting a ghost town.

Very few people were walking or driving, and most of the clothing, jewelry and other retail stores along Colorado Boulevard, from its western end to Sierra Madre Boulevard, were closed, or appeared to be.

Although most merchants were allowed to conduct tightly structured curbside sales, one of the few places with people in line for anything was a lengthy one formed outside Cheesecake Factory in Old Pas, with people — most wearing masks — patiently standing six feet from each other while waiting to pick up orders. Buca Di Beppo, around the corner at DeLacey Avenue and Green Street, was a bit different, with many people standing outside, but some not wearing masks or social distancing.

Similar scenes played out through Old Pasadena, Midtown, the Playhouse District, where Vroman’s Bookstore (one of the shops allowed to stay open by the city) had its door open but no one standing outside, and South Lake Avenue.

The truth is, of the 351 merchants notified that they would be allowed to conduct tightly regulated curbside sales did not participate. All told, City Manager Steve Mermell told the Pasadena City Council Monday night, 50 businesses joined in — 40 doing curbside sales, three deemed essential, and seven that were non-compliant but got with the program after being told about it by one or more of the 52 city staffers working double shits over three days, driving around the city and keeping an eye out. There were some problems, with three flower shops allowing customers inside, and six restaurants where customers were either inside or gathering outside without wearing masks.

But, “All in all,” Mermell said Monday, “it was fairly quiet, and everything went fairly smoothly.”

Monday, coincidentally, marked the fourth straight day with no reported COVID-19-related deaths in Pasadena, something of a milestone. As of Monday, there were 65 deaths in Pasadena, the vast majority of those occurring at skilled nursing facilities, of which Pasadena has many.

In addition to the reopening review, the council voted to reopen the hugely popular loop around the Rose Bowl, which is widely used by walkers, runners and cyclists. Early into the lockdown in March, city officials closed the loop when visitors failed to wear masks and observe social distancing. On Monday, the council reopened the venue and some local hiking trails with the provision that they stay six feet from other people, wear a face covering, not gather in crowds, and leave no trash. Only the Rose Bowl’s Lot I will be open for 90-minute parking, said Brenda Harvey Williams, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Service. The idea is to get in, get done and get out. No dawdling, loitering or congregating.

On Friday, Brookside Golf Course near the Rose Bowl reopened, with conditions, and on the following day courses around LA County followed suit.

The city, Mermell said, has published a brochure for merchants to use in conducting business under COVID crisis conditions, “The COVID-19 Safety Protocols for Reopening Business.”

For last Friday’s reopening in Pasadena, only certain businesses — antique stores, bookstores, clothing and shoe stores, florists, home and furnishing stores, jewelry stores, music stores, sporting goods stores, and toy stores — were allowed to open for curbside business. The popular disc golf course in Oak Grove Park was not reopened, although many enthusiasts implored the council through email to do so.

It was expected that the county on Wednesday would announce that all businesses that can operate curbside may do so. Long Beach, which like Pasadena has its own Health Department, has already done that, Mermell noted.