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With bars set to close because of coronavirus, owners worry about employees

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Amid coronavirus hoarding, stores are empty at a Manhattan Beach Target on Friday
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with long lines, panicked shoppers and empty shelves, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday urged people not to hoard supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak and said bars in the city should close until further notice.

In an interview on CNN, Garcetti also said bar closures were needed to protect the public. He said he expect more guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom soon.

Los Angeles bartender Vincenzo Marianella says he agrees “1000 percent” with the mayor’s decision. “Unfortunately our business is the first one to suffer the most” said Marianella, who is behind the beverage program at soon-to-open Forma in Venice. The restaurant and bar’s opening date has been pushed from mid April to June or July.

Robert Kim owner of the Koreatown bar and lounge Mama Lion: “What can I really say but it’s unfortunate however safety is the utmost importance. My biggest concerns is for my staff and their livelihood and separately, protecting the business from possible theft or looting in these dire times.”

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The guidance comes amid unprecedented levels of demand that has left some stores out of stock of many items. Long lines were reported at Trader Joe’s, Costco and other retailers, as well as local mom-and-pop stores. Hot items included frozen goods, pasta, water, meats and, of course, toilet paper.

Garcetti noted there was no need to stock up on bottled water because L.A. tap water “is clean and safe.”

The LAPD issued a statement on Twitter saying “here are the facts,” with reminders that there is no food shortage, stores will restock and the water supply is safe. “We are in this together,” the department tweeted.

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As of Saturday, Los Angeles County had reported 14 more cases of coronavirus, including one new case in Long Beach, bringing the county’s total to 54.

As popular retailers struggled to maintain stocks of water, household items, groceries and sanitizing products, people were turning to local stores as well.

Marlon Chavarria ran over to the tiny yellow store Glady’s 98 Cents and Up and grabbed three packages of toilet paper from his mother-in-law. He carried them over to his white SUV and stuffed them inside the trunk with other groceries.

“It’s like the end of the world out here,” the 37-year-old said. “You can’t find anything.”

Since 7 a.m., the Compton resident had gone to almost every supermarket and big box retailer in a vain search for toilet paper. Even after waiting three hours in line to get into one store, Chavarria walked out dispirited and empty-handed.

Early evening, his luck changed. His mother-in-law told him about a local “98 cent” store in South Los Angeles that, miraculously under the circumstances, seemed to have everything. And that’s how he ended up with toilet paper in the trunk of his SUV and a smile on his face.

“Time to go home where it’s safe,” he said.


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