SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Managing Director for the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica, Julien Laracine, is nowadays making certain his hand sanitizing stations remain stocked. Safety and cleanliness are the keys to keeping his hotel doors open.
"It's like 80 percent alcohol," said Laracine on the hand sanitizing solution in his stations.
The hotel celebrated its one-year anniversary in June and was doing well before businesses were forced to close. Two months of closure starting in March had the hotel experiencing the devastating business impacts of the pandemic. However, at the end of May, The Proper Hotel got the green light to reopen its doors with new CDC guidelines in place.
"There are some smells of chlorine in the hotel but we'd rather do this and overdo it than be questionable," said Laracine.
Reopening hotels is good news for a city like Santa Monica, with its economy that relies on tourism. In 2018, visitor spending accounted for $2 billion with overnight guests contributing over $58 million to the city's general fund.
In normal times, The Proper Hotel’s occupancy was nearly full and it served many business travelers. Now, it is seeing locals coming for staycations.
"If the trends continue this way that business would be back to normal by summer 2021," Laracine said.
Not knowing what the future will bring, The Proper Hotel is using every day it has to make people feel like they're at home.
"The reason why I wake up every day, it's to be with my team, it's to lead them, to support them when they need and to welcome guests and design memorable experiences," said Laracine.
With the economy reopening and visitors allowed to stay at hotels, it is hopeful that Santa Monica could be back on track to recover from its losses. However, beaches are closing for the 4th of July holiday weekend, so the future of tourism still remains uncertain, which could impact other small businesses.
Santa Monica restaurant Socalo, has been open since January.
“No sales for three months and you open back up and you're at 25 percent, it's huge,” said one of the restaurant owners, Susan Feniger.
When the shutdown happened, the restaurant furloughed staff and invested in creating a new outdoor dining space. Although she's hopeful they'll survive, Feniger feels the future of any restaurant will depend on people's comfort to go out to eat.
"At some point if sales don't pick up you have to sort of question ‘does it keep making sense to pour money in,’" said Feniger.
Feniger hopes restaurants will receive more aid from the government. For Feniger, despite the desire for customers to return, their well-being is most important.
"That's more important than going out to eat, is that people stay safe, healthy, and vote,” said Feniger.