Retail Owners Are Frustrated With California’s New Lock Down

Retailers and retail owners say that the government needs to enforce safety guidelines, not shut down businesses.

California launched a new, albeit modified, stay at home order last week in response to rapidly rising positive COVID-19 tests. The new lockdown prohibits indoor and outdoor dining, limiting restaurants to takeout, and reduces retail and grocery store capacity. Retail owner Newmark Merrill is growing frustrated with the yo-yo of California closures. The firm’s CEO and president Sandy Sigal says that the government needs to enforce safety guidelines, not shut down businesses.

“I don’t think that we should prioritize retailers’ well being over other people’s well being, but this is terrible policy to have new rules every few months,” Sigal tells “At the beginning, no one knew what we were dealing with. I understood that. Now, we know, so why are we continually changing the rules? It is enforcement.”

Sigal was flexible early on in the pandemic, understanding the importance of public safety, but says that the government should have a better strategy this far into the pandemic. “It is mind boggling to me that we have to paint everything with such a broad brush,” he says. “There were a number of restaurants that put money into outdoor dining, and at the last minute, that was thrown away. After nine or ten months, we should be able to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys.”

Newmark Merrill has 1,800 retail tenants and regularly performs site visits to ensure that retailers are compliant with the new regulations. He recommends that the government perform a similar policy to determine who is compliant and who is a health and safety risk. “I know the difference between the people that are doing a really great job at implementing the guidelines and those that aren’t,” says Sigal. “I can see that difference. Because the government doesn’t want hard enforcement, these guidelines become voluntary. That blows up in your face, because there are always some people that think they don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Then, the government overreacts and shuts everything down.”

The yo-yo of closures and re-openings puts more pressure on already struggling businesses. Many of these retailers have invested money into complying with regulations as well as standard business costs, which are lost in addition to lost revenue. “These tenants only have so many resources,” says Sigal. “There was some relief with the PPP money, which was great and helped a lot of people. Those businesses re-opened and followed the rules, and they were shut down again. Now, they have adapted again and re-opened again under a new set of rules. They are now being shutdown again right before the biggest retail season of the year.”

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