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Huntington Beach to Reopen Main Street for First Time Since 2020

Now that the pandemic is over, the Huntington Beach City Council Jan. 24 voted 4–3, with council members Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser, and Rhonda Bolton opposing, to reopen a portion of its Main Street, which was closed in 2020 to allow businesses to expand outdoors.

The issue was brought forward by Mayor Pro-Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, who did so after getting input from affected businesses.

She received the brunt of negative comments from the public for suggesting the change. However, fellow Councilman Casey McKeon backed her up and thanked her for taking on the task.

“This situation we have now is just unacceptable. We need a level playing field for all the businesses,” McKeon said. “There’s been some statement made that if we open it up, we don’t support businesses. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Epoch Times Photo
Huntington beach City Councilwoman Gracey Van Der Mark listens to public commenters during a city council meeting at the Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Several representatives associated with businesses on the street voiced support during the meeting for reopening the second block of Main Street—the only section of the street still closed off.

“It’s disturbing what’s going on down there,” said John Raymer, general manager of Fred’s Mexican Café. The closure, he said, “has caused numerous issues for our guests and our staff, including safety and security, health and cleanliness, homelessness, parking and traffic congestion, and has created an environment downtown that is not family-friendly.”

Stephanie Wilson, who is a partner at the same restaurant and also with Sandy’s Beach Shack, said the once relaxed surfer-atmosphere with classic cars and cruisers drifting up and down Main Street has been replaced by “unsightly and unwelcoming” temporary extensions of restaurants.

“It is unfair to allow this cost-free business expansion to the second block of Main Street,” Wilson said during the meeting. “The closure has created an environment of bar-oriented problems and unnecessary police presence in the second block, which has scared away families, locals, and tourists from the downtown area.”

Owner of Aloha Grill, Todd Brown, also spoke in support of reopening the street on behalf of businesses located on the top floor of two-story buildings that were not given extra space on the street in response to COVID.

Epoch Times Photo
People enjoy outdoor drinks and dining on Main Street in Huntington Beach, Calif., on July 16 2020. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

But some residents, such as William Halligan said the closure of the street has created a “family-friendly” and “pedestrian-safe” environment and should be made permanent.

After the vote, businesses now have 30 days to remove all expanded outdoor dining operations.

The council is also hoping to implement a revitalization plan for the street including better lighting, signage, traffic circulation, and a path of connectivity from Pacific City—a stretch of retail stores and restaurants at the shore—according to McKeon.

But some business owners in the area wrote a letter to the city in advance of the issue being discussed pleading that it hold off reopening the street until such plans were finalized, in the event the street be shut down again for the new changes.

Cheri Boggelyn, owner of No Ka Oi restaurant wrote that if there were another closure of the street it would “devastate” their family business, as they are already struggling with increased labor and food costs.

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