Poway Approves Measure to Let Some Closed Businesses Offer Services at City Parks

Under the SOS initiative, COVID-19 safety guidelines like social distancing and wearing face masks would be mandated

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Some Poway businesses recently shut down once again due to public health orders will soon be able to offer their services in the city’s public parks following the city council's vote of approval.

On Wednesday, the Poway City Council voted in favor of Mayor Steve Vaus’ proposal, the Sharing Outdoor Space (SOS) Initiative, which relaxes restrictions in the city’s 20 parks to allow fitness-oriented businesses and places of worship to hold their services outside. Under current rules, parks cannot be used for commercial services.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all indoor operation of fitness centers, personal care services, places of worship and more to shut down in counties on the state’s monitoring list – which included San Diego County. As a result, many local businesses were forced to shut down again after reopening briefly.

Vaus’ newly-passed proposal allows some businesses to practice their activities in parks at now cost until indoor operations are allowed once again. He said it’s important to help local business owners because they are essential to the community.

“They’re like family to us,” he told NBC 7. “We want to make sure we give them opportunity, every opportunity to flourish if possible.”

Under the SOS initiative, COVID-19 safety guidelines like social distancing and wearing face masks would be mandated for participating businesses.

Impact Martial Arts rolled out some mats outside in their parking lot on Tuesday to accommodate for outdoor use in case the proposal passes. Stacey Nguyen, one of the studio's instructors, has been teaching her students virtually via livestream.

When indoor operations were briefly allowed again, the studio reopened with safety protocols in place; only eight students were allowed per class and the had to have their temperature taken at the door in addition to wearing a mask. That only lasted for a limited time due to the reinstated health order.

NBC 7’s Audra Stafford speaks with a martial arts instructor who has been setting up an outdoor space for her students to practice while maintaining social distancing.

"It was a little big devastating but we knew that we had to keep going and moving on," Nguyen said. "And right away I talked to all of the other instructors and we worked on different things and we decided to just move our studio outside.”

She said the studio got the inspiration to move outside after seeing restaurants move their services outdoor.

Just last week, Poway leaders voted to buy and lend picnic tables to local restaurants so they could expand their outdoor dining services for the next three weeks. Once the picnic tables are no longer needed at the restaurants, they will be moved to city parks.

It is unclear how soon the SOS Initiative will be placed in effect.

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