San Diego Mayor Signs Order to Expand Outdoor Options to Gyms, Salons, Churches

There has been a push to allow San Diego restaurants and other businesses to expand their service outdoors since they're not allowed to operate indoors due to current pandemic public health rules

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San Diego’s mayor announced Monday he signed an executive order that will expand outdoor options for local gyms, salons, and churches that have had their indoor operations shut down due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the executive order -- which allows those businesses to apply for a permit to expand their operations into private parking lots -- will act as a "lifeline" to businesses that have struggled to keep up with changing public health orders.

"What we are doing today is providing a critical lifeline to a very large segment of our economy," Faulconer said.

In a later tweet, Faulconer confirmed the order was signed "eliminating local restrictions on gyms, barbers, salons and places of worship operating outside—where there’s a lower risk."

While the executive order will allow gyms and religious services to resume operations outdoors immediately, personal care services first needed approval from the state which came Monday afternoon.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom clarified hair salons, skincare businesses, nail salons and massage parlors could operate outdoors, though the state's Board of Barbering and Cosmetology -- which enforces cosmetology licenses and can issue citations -- said services that required another level of sterilization may not operate outdoors. That includes chemical hair services and shampooing, tattoos, piercings and electrolysis.

The board issued guidance for hair salons and barbershops wishing to operate outdoors as well as COVID-19 guidance for all other personal care services. For example, the board recommended that services only be conducted in parking lots adjacent to the licensed businesses and that customers should not be allowed inside.

NBC 7’s Audra Stafford speaks with a Clairemont salon owner who believes it isn’t feasible for employees like him to offer their services outside.

In order for San Diego businesses to take their operations outdoors, owners will first need to apply for a permit. In order to help businesses get up and running as soon as possible, the city is expediting permit approval and can waive fees for struggling businesses. More information can be found here.

The city said their analysis found at least 4,000 of the city's 90,000 small businesses could benefit from the executive order.

Frank Du, owner of the Three Treasures Cultural Arts Society in Mira Mesa, said his business that provides martial arts classes to kids wouldn't have lasted more than two more months without the mayor's order.

"Like many hardworking Americans, we would have been left in the dark," Du said. "We’re going to get to work right after this press conference to take advantage of this executive order."

Mayor Faulconer said businesses will still need to follow the county's public health order while operating outside, including maintaining social distance, utilizing facial coverings and taking additional sanitization measures.

"It’s incredibly important to follow public health guidelines, that even though you’re outdoors, in an outdoor environment, that you’re still following all of the safety guidelines," Faulconer said.

One week ago, the San Diego City Council voted in favor of streamlining an executive order signed by Faulconer aimed at making it easier for local restaurants to serve food outdoors.

Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in San Diego County – which landed San Diego on California’s coronavirus monitoring list early this month – public health officials once again shuttered indoor dining rooms. The second shutdown of indoor gyms, salons, barbershops, and houses of worship followed.

Faulconer signed the executive order for restaurants last week, which allows eateries to install pop-up dining areas on sidewalks, patios, and even adjacent parking lots without having to apply for permits, which can cost up to $1,000 and take several months to be processed and approved.

The city council’s vote on restaurants last week extended similar leeway to other local businesses in San Diego County. Shops can start using private parking lots and sidewalks to extend their businesses outside, with most of the permitting fees waived.

The mayor last week said these small businesses and restaurants were among “the hardest hit” by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and, by moving operations outside, San Diegans can continue to support local businesses “safely and responsibly.”

The outdoor option is becoming a lifeline for some local businesses. Last week, NBC 7 visited Coronado to see how some gyms on the island were moving their classes outside.

Over the weekend, some businesses at Liberty Station took their classes outside, too, hoping the move would help them stay afloat as the pandemic continues to jolt operations.

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