Laguna Beach to mull $1 million relief program for small businesses, nonprofits

Tables, chairs, and umbrellas were installed on dining decks at the Promenade on Forest Avenue earlier this year. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

The Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday will consider a $1 million relief package for small businesses and nonprofits to help alleviate the financial hardship created by the regional stay-at-home order.

Laguna Beach restaurant and bar operators could apply for a single $5,000 grant per establishment. Similarly, retailers could each apply for a $2,000 to $3,000 grant.

The so-called LB CARES program proposed by Mayor Bob Whalen, signals that city officials are interested in shoring up local organizations facing an unprecedented dip in revenue during what is typically a highly-productive season.

“The relief programs are intended to help avoid business closures, promote the long-term health of our local businesses, nonprofits and cultural arts organizations and provide some ‘bridge funding’ until further county, state, and federal grants and loans become available, which could be several months from now,” Whalen wrote in a staff report.

A proposed program budget would earmark $750,000 for grants to restaurants, bars, and retailers. An additional $250,000 would be awarded to local nonprofits. If approved, City Council could review both programs in January or February and assign a subcommittee to review applications.

The current city budget has a $13.2 million General Fund reserve, which represents about 20 percent of the City’s General Fund expenditures.

There is a list of qualifications and terms for applying businesses:

  • The applicant must be a restaurant, bar, or retail store located in Laguna Beach
  • Hold a current Laguna Beach business license
  • Must be in compliance with, and pledge to continue complying with state and county health orders.
  • Must confirm financial hardship dude to COVID-19 closures.
  • Qualified businesses don’t include those that are part of a franchise or national chain
  • Restaurants housed within hotels aren’t eligible
  • City employees, elected and appointed officials, and their immediate family members aren’t eligible.

If the funding is approved on Tuesday businesses can file applications from Dec. 23 to Jan. 5. That deadline could be extended to Jan. 19

For the nonprofit sector, Laguna Beach will move up its annual Community Assistance Grant Program to March 2021. Normally, the program is funded by rent revenue collected from the Festival of Arts—but the city hasn’t collected any rent from the festival this year because it was forced to shutdown in-person events. In 2019. this program awarded $257,000 in grants to 40 Laguna Beach nonprofits, ranging from $500 to $24,000, according to a staff report.