LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County stands alone in keeping indoor shopping malls closed. In Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Ventura Counties, you can shop ‘til you drop.
In L.A. County, you can only shop in stores that have an independent exterior door. That rule is hurting small business owners like Tony and Junaid Mohammed. The brothers have run Metropolis Big and Tall for almost three decades in the Westfield Culver City mall. The store operated just 30 days since the shutdown.
"I’m losing a lot of money, big-time money, and I’m behind in mortgage, rent and everything. And that’s very important, my whole family depending on this," Tony told FOX 11's Susan Hirasuna.
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The store is neat as a pin and packed with new merchandise, but no shoppers to help ease the stress of racking up bills. They offer curbside pick-up, but those sales only go so far.
Metropolis is on the second floor of the Westfield Culver City mall, fairly distant from the mall doors. You could argue, it’s even worse for Pro Image Sports. That store is located just two stores from the mall’s doors. And, worse, the shop is right across the way from a store that can welcome customers. Shoe store Sheijh has a door, right next to the mall’s doors.
“We depend on foot traffic so much and being in a good center like this.. this is why we came here,” Eddie Varela said.
He and his business partner graduated from Manual Arts High School together with dreams of being entrepreneurs. They first opened in Baldwin Hills, investing their life savings. That store is also closed.
Ricardo Velasquez choked up when asked if he’s losing sleep over the closure of their two stores. He admitted, he was mostly worried about the man he calls his brother. Eddie has three children including his son, Adrian who didn’t go back to Southern University because money is tight.
Velasquez told FOX 11 about a recent call he got from Eddie in the middle of the night. He said Eddie went out for a run at 3 a.m. to get his mind off the business.
“And every day that we’re closed, and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for us, we might lose our business,” Velasquez said.
Pro Image Sports sells its wares online, but sales are nothing compared to when their stores are open.
“Sometimes we’re here all day and get maybe one sale... or not any... and it’s hard, it’s frustrating,” said Eddie.
In the meantime, Molly Unger of Westfield, the company that owns 89 shopping malls around the world told FOX 11 that only five of those are closed; all of them in L.A. County. She gave us a tour of the interior of the mall to show off the hand sanitizer stations, the food court without any tables and chairs and the directional arrows for foot traffic.
“Look at this vast pavilion that we got plenty of space to welcome back our guests. We’ve also upgraded our air filters to the highest level of MERV13 that the CDC has recommended. So, we’re ready,” she said.
She also sees the bigger picture with the five Westfield properties, “We have over 24 thousand people in the five malls that are still closed, and that means, they’re not bringing home money they can’t consume, let alone the tax dollars that we are giving away to other counties by not allowing our stores to open."
FOX 11 has reached out to the Los Angeles Public Health Department hoping to get some answers and is waiting to hear back.