By CBSLA Staff

WEST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) — The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for most businesses across the country. And in the city of West Hollywood, which thrives on tourism and hospitality, the impact has been severe.

The famous bar/restaurant The Abbey in West Hollywood reopened May 29, 2020, in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

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“It’s been a tough time for our businesses,” Mayor Lindsey Horvath said. “We know that there are some that won’t come back, but we also know that so many fought through.”

Horvath said it has been tough seeing her city shut down, but it’s been even harder to see WeHo staples like Rage Nightclub close permanently.

“We know that Flaming Saddles, which had a location here in West Hollywood, didn’t make it,” she said. “And we know Gold Coast is another iconic bar that people have known and loved for many years, at this moment, they didn’t survive.”

Genevieve Morrill, the president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said that while the city only stretches about 1.9 miles, it generates almost $2 billion in tourism in an average year.

“We took some big hits like everybody else,” she said. “But we’ve been coming back really strong.”

But that comeback has come, in part, because of the city’s ability to get creative.

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“We really need to just keep working on trying to find different ways to allow flexibility with businesses,” Morrill said. “So change of zoning and parking requirements, ability to have different uses. For instance, a concert, a clubhouse might be able to do a gallery opening or have a chef cook one night. So having some flexibility in venues besides just as a concert hall or just as a bar will help the businesses thrive.”

Lauren Fontein is one of the owners of The Artist Tree, a West Hollywood cannabis boutique that opened its doors just months before the shutdown.

“It was very stressful being an employer, because you worry about everyone in the store and coming in contact with customers,” she said. “So we were able to adapt, and we really did promote distancing in our store and [we were] very strict about how many people we let in at any one time and had the floor markers and greatly reduced the capacity of how many people we could serve.”

From staying safe and following protocols to being creative and thinking outside the box, the city of West Hollywood has struggled like so many, but is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“The city of West Hollywood has really come together during the COVID-19 crisis,” Horvath said. “It’s certainly been a challenge for us as it has been for so many regions, but it’s also been a time where our strength and resilience as a community has really shown through as well.”

“Well, pride lives here all year round,” Morrill said. “I think the future of west Hollywood is exciting. If we can bring back the hotel and tourism industry in force as it should be, we’ll have great success with our business community and our residents here.”

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Morrill said that over the past month, hotel occupancy has shot up from about 30% to more than 70%. And while occupancy rates are normally in the high 80% or low 90% range, she said it was a great sign that the city was getting back to business as usual.