Well-known downtown businesses say they could close if safety concerns aren’t addressed • Long Beach Business Journal

City leaders plan to call a meeting Thursday in hopes of stopping prominent Long Beach businesses from fleeing downtown, where they say crime, loud construction, a dwindling number of office workers and a runaway homeless population Keeping customers away who long The Beach Business Journal learned a lesson.

“The situation downtown is desperate, sad and disappointing. We are on the brink of having very few options left to salvage our spot downtown,” wrote Gabriel Gordon, co-owner of Beachwood Brewing, in an Oct. 27 email to the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, in which he outlined a litany of problems that he said drove the business down over 25%.

These include, but are not limited to: the open consumption of drugs, acts of violence near the restaurant, people going onto the terrace where they disturb customers, and vandalism. Gordon recounted an incident where a couple got into an argument outside the restaurant that resulted in the woman being beaten unconscious. Police did not respond when called, he said.

Adding to safety concerns, Gordon wrote that nearby construction projects have crowded out business due to noise and dust, and downtown office jobs “have not made a meaningful comeback” since the pandemic began to subside.

The Business Journal received Gordon’s email after DLBA CEO Austin Metoyer forwarded it to more than a dozen senior city employees, elected officials and business leaders.

“While Downtown has had challenges over the past two years, these past few months have brought a whole different level of problems related to the aggressive and erratic behavior of individuals who may have substance abuse or mental health problems,” Metoyer said, challenging the city ​​on trade.

Metoyer wrote that the DLBA has heard of other businesses considering closing downtown, including The Ordinarie, BO-beau kitchen + roof tap, District Wine and Farmers & Merchants Bank.

In his email, Metoyer suggested convening a meeting on November 10 “to seek sustainable solutions to address this immediate crisis.”

“I hope we can glean some actionable points from this initial discussion,” Metoyer said Wednesday afternoon, adding that losing businesses that years ago helped make Downtown an entertainment destination would be a blow.

“They are fundamental,” he said. “They really brought about the change that we saw. They were the first to jump in the direction downtown was going.”

Long Beach City spokesman Kevin Lee said Thursday’s meeting will be attended by representatives from various city governments, including the city manager’s office, police, fire, health and public works.

“It’s important to tackle these complex societal challenges together as we continue to develop new strategies to empower our entire community,” Lee said in a text message on Wednesday.

Councilor Mary Zendejas’ office confirmed that she would also be present. Mayor Robert Garcia and Council Member Cindy Allen included in Metoyer’s email did not respond to requests for comment. It is unclear whether they will be there.

Long Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeremy Harris said he was attending the meeting, noting that a similar gathering was held about six months ago.

“I think it’s been the status quo ever since,” Harris said. “I don’t think the city has done enough to address issues, but Long Beach is not alone. This problem is currently unfolding in all major cities in the country.”

Harris said he hopes the meeting will result in solutions that will keep businesses in the downtown area, which already has high office and retail vacancy rates.

BO Beau owners could not be reached immediately, and Gordon declined to comment beyond what was in his email. A Farmers & Merchants spokesman said the bank had no intention of closing any branches.

The Ordinary’s owner, Christy Caldwell, said he has a long lease on his premises and is not considering closing it. However, he said he recognizes the serious problems Downtown is facing and hopes they will be resolved.

District wine owner Angela Mesna said Wednesday she was aware of the meeting but could not attend due to ill health. She said she will be in touch with the DLBA after the meeting to provide updates on how the issues are being addressed.

“It’s almost going to be more damaging than the pandemic,” Mesna said, adding that she’ll hold out for six more months before looking for places to relocate. If other stores were to close, it would speed up their schedule, she said.

District Wine opened in 2009, and Downtown now feels more dangerous, Mesna said, adding that the area made strides in the years leading up to the pandemic-related “decline.”

Figures from the city show that Long Beach’s homeless population has increased 62% since 2020 and total property crime downtown has increased 23% this year. In October, the city even temporarily closed Billie Jean King’s $48 million main library for security reasons.

In addition, according to a DLBA report published in August, 22.4% of downtown office space was vacant in the second quarter of 2022. Many downtown restaurants rely on lunchtime traffic from nearby offices.

“Customers don’t feel safe,” Mesna said, noting that even regular customers are visiting less. “My employees are afraid. We all carry pepper spray just to serve our customers on the parklet.”

“I love Downtown, I love Long Beach,” Mesna continued, “and it breaks my heart to see what’s happening.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from the owner of The Ordinari and to correct the spelling of Angela Mesna’s last name.

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