LA Times: Grocers Lobby against Drastic Capacity Reductions

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Last week, upon release of the Regional Stay at Home Order, Governor Newsom’s staff shared that the grocery industry was not included in the new 20% occupancy limit placed on “retail.”

Within 48 hours, the Governor’s office changed course and informed the Association of its intention to move grocery to a 20% occupancy cap, along with all other non-essential retail.

The Association aggressively pursued a reversal and investigated every means available to pressure the Governor. Late Sunday evening, Newsom’s staff shared that grocery store occupancy will be restricted to 35% under the Regional Stay at Home Order.

The LA Times reports:

On Sunday, hours before a new health order went into effect across much of California, officials issued an addendum allowing grocery stores to operate at 35% capacity — down from 50% capacity, which has been in effect statewide since the beginning of the pandemic, but up from 20% in the latest state-ordered restrictions. The state’s order had required both essential stores, such as grocers, and nonessential retail, such as shopping malls, to limit capacity to 20% if they were in an area considered a coronavirus danger zone. But the California Grocers Assn. lobbied against such a drastic reduction.

State officials worked over the weekend with the California Grocers Assn. to bring clarity to the latest order, said Dave Heylen, a spokesman for the industry group.

Ron Fong, president and CEO of the association, argued that grocery stores needed to be distinguished from other types of retail, noting that under the original order all stores were lumped together.

Contrary to other retailers, such as clothing stores, “we are providing critical infrastructure, providing safe food to our customers,” Fong said Monday morning.

A member of Newsom’s task force on business and jobs recovery, created in the spring during the earliest surge of the pandemic, Fong said the governor agreed that grocery stores needed to be carved out in the new rules. 

Customers should not have trouble accessing their local grocery stores under the modified cap, Fong said. 

“There will not be crowding,” he said. “We will not have long lines out the door, which was what our concern was going to be at 20%.”