Big Bear is holding at eight positive cases of COVID-19 as of May 5. In that spirit, the city of Big Bear Lake continues to formulate a plan to re-open and get the economy moving again.
On May 4, the pandemic response plan committee met for the second time to further refine the proposal originally presented by City Manager Frank Rush on April 23. Mayor Rick Herrick, who heads the committee, started by making sure the expectations of the committee are clear. The committee is to come to a consensus on various points that will be folded into a final recommendation for the Big Bear Lake City Council to review and adjust before approval. He is hopeful the plan is in line with San Bernardino County’s plan, Herrick said.
Following the May 4 meeting, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that beginning Friday, May 8, some retail and manufacturing businesses can open with restrictions. The retail stores will be able to open for curbside delivery or pickup, something a number of retail shops in Big Bear have been doing since the stay-at-home order began in March.
At the city of Big Bear Lake level, the governor’s order won’t change the timeline for the committee or council, Rush told The Grizzly. If certain businesses are allowed to open on Friday, those types of businesses will be allowed to open in Big Bear, Rush said. The committee will continue its work, and the council will review and possibly take action at the May 11 meeting, Rush said.
The city’s plan does not align strictly with the governor’s staged plan for re-opening. Big Bear Lake’s plan takes all business into consideration, from restaurants and retail to recreation and lodging. The governor’s plan, at this initial phase, does not allow for restaurants or retail to open for in-house customers or seated diners. Those segments will be addressed soon, the governor said.
In Big Bear Lake, the idea is to allow all businesses to open regardless of the type of business, with limitations. The business must follow the social distance rule of 6 feet or a 50 percent capacity at any given time, whether a lodge or a restaurant. Face coverings will be needed when in closed space settings such as in a store or restaurant. When in solo situations like running on a trail, it’s not necessary to wear a mask, but you should have it with you.
Currently local restaurants have offered takeout and delivery, one restaurant offering car hop service. Starbucks drive-thru reopened on
May 5 as well.
The group came to a consensus that lodging, whether private home rentals or a hotel, could open at 50 percent capacity at any one time, for now. Jo Ann Cecil of Destination Big Bear said May is traditionally a slower month when capacity is usually at less than 50 percent in the vacation rental market for Big Bear. June is about 50 percent. Asked about July, Cecil said “July’s a different story, we’re talking about May.”
Liz Harris asked if vacation home rental companies can instruct the renters to provide their own food and supplies. The perception is that the visitors are depleting supplies in Big Bear’s grocery stores, where supplies are limited, Harris said. Cecil said customers are asked to bring their own food or order take out from Big Bear restaurants. She said they are even asked to bring their own toilet paper and pillows.
Herrick said some residents are upset as more visitors arrive. If there are no restrictions, it appears the city doesn’t care about its residents, Herrick said.
Rush reminded the committee that the draft plan was issued about two weeks ago as a starting point. A lot has changed since that time, Rush said. If the county or governor were to allow the community to reopen at 100 percent, you need to ask yourself if you are comfortable with that or should the city be more restrictive, Rush said.
Wade Reeser of Big Bear Mountain Resort said educating the public is key. The volume of visitors is lower at this time of year. If more food and beverage options were open, that might ease the strain and demand on the grocery stores. People are home now and cooking a lot more than they did several months ago, Reeser said.
Oliver Deubel of Frontier Lodge said May might normally be slower, but with people working from home that changes the dynamic. He said he is getting calls asking about wi-fi availability and strength because people are working from home and that can be from anywhere.
Councilman Randy Putz said the plan and guidelines cannot be overly complicated because that’s just an excuse to ignore them. The plan needs to be sustainable for some time, he said.
In terms of restaurants and retail and the need to maintain the 6 feet distance, the committee is looking at relaxing some restrictions on outdoor dining and even merchandise and signage outside the main physical space of the business. There was some discussion regarding closing the Village L to vehicular traffic, either temporarily or on weekends.
Ron Vandenbroke of Stone Entertainment said he supports closing the Village on weekends. Alcohol sales/consumption could be an issue, Reeser said.
Moving through the items under consideration, Harris suggested local businesses and restaurants consider continuing what the grocery stores are doing to allow seniors special shopping hours. She suggested a Senior Tuesday, early bird specials at restaurants or discounts at retail stores to attract seniors and boost business on a traditionally slow day.
Harris said seniors need to be mindful of their own responsibility and some special considerations might make it easier to get them out and about. “It’s not fun being home all the time,” Harris said.
Rush said one of two things could happen to influence the plans to re-open. One, the governor or county could relax restrictions and, two, the governor or county could provide flexibility to local governments for setting guidelines, and that’s where the work of the committee is helpful, Rush said.
The committee is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, May 4, at 9 a.m. via Zoom. The public can participate here https://zoom.us/j/96079118453