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Manhattan Beach Farmers' Market Re-Opening Plan Put On Hold

Apr 27, 2020 12:58PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A plan for a limited re-opening of the Manhattan Beach Farmers Market hit a snag on Monday morning with the Manhattan Beach City Council on the issue of staffing.

To carry out its modified plan for re-opening, the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professionals Association had asked for the city to provide assistance in monitoring the market entrance.

However, as Mayor Richard Montgomery pointed out, the city has never provided staffing to the farmers' market, most city staff is not on site due to stay-at-home orders, and police and fire personnel are fully occupied with regular and coronavirus-related duties.

Jill Lamkin, the executive director of the downtown business association, agreed to meet with Council liaison Nancy Hersman and Manhattan Beach City Manager Bruce Moe this week to work out the issue.

One possibility mentioned by council members would be to use local volunteers, particularly those whose regular activities had been sidelined by coronavirus shutdowns.

Re-Opening Plan Laid Out

The downtown business association had laid out a detailed plan for re-opening that was crafted in consultation with other local farmers' markets that are currently in operation.

A limited "Phase 1" plan for re-opening the Manhattan Beach Farmers' Market would include reducing the market from its current 50+ vendors down to just "farmers and fish," or only 50 to 60 percent of the market's current vendors.

Additionally, the market would operate only on 13th Street, with no center aisle of stands; cloth face coverings would be required for entry; and the market would only be open for four hours (operating from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

Other restrictions would include:

  • Suspending all gathering places, special programming, kids' activities, live music, and community seating.
  • Closing off the market with a clear entrance and exit to control the total number of shoppers allowed in at any one time, not to exceed 2.5 shoppers per vendor.
  • Closing off all vendor spaces with barricade tape for "request only" so that only the vendor could touch the produce or food item.
  • Complying with the L.A. County Health Department's food handling protocols, including no open cooking, no food sampling, only prepacked items available prepared in a commercial kitchen with additional safety protocols in place; and requiring vendors to bring their hand-washing stations and switch out gloves on a regular basis.
  • Requiring cloth face coverings for vendors, along with emphasizing best practices (stay home if sick, maintain distance behind tables, wash hands regularly, etc).
  • Posting signage to support guidelines and restrictions (reminders to wear face coverings, select shorter lines first, observe social distancing, refrain from touching food, shop within 30 minutes, and use restrooms for hand washing as needed.)

Consultation with Other Markets

Lamkin noted that the terms for re-opening the farmers market were drawn up in consultation with other working farmers' markets.

"With a goal of reopening the safest possible certified farmers' market,we have outlined some of the most restrictive measures seen at any [market] within LA County," she wrote in a letter to City Council.

At Monday morning's meeting, however, she emphasized to the city council that the downtown association saw an effort to re-open as part of a partnership, and it wasn't something that they would move ahead with without support of the council.

"Just so everyone knows, this is not something that we are absolutely gung ho on that we are pushing forward with," said Lamkin. "We want to make sure that we are in agreement with you guys so that we are all in this together."

Lamkin added that with the cost of additional signage and materials, the market was only expecting to net somewhere between $500 and $1,000.

Currently, a number of certified farmers’ markets continue operations under the heightened L.A. County Department of Public Health COVID-19 protocols, including Santa Monica, Torrance, Culver City and approximately 30 others throughout Los Angeles County.

Manhattan Beach is unique in that its farmers' market is sponsored by the downtown business association, rather than the city.

Founded in 2006, it is now in its 15th year of operation.

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