Roy: Good afternoon, Roy Oppenheim here for Zoom at Noon by Oppenheim Law as well as Weston Title & Escrow. Believe it or not, I keep saying this, but this is now our 16th week that we are zooming live during this crazy topsy-turvy world that we all have become so familiar with, has become our new normal. Today we’re gonna be talking about how to avoid liability and being shut down during COVID-19. That’s kind of crazy because as the state of Florida continues to try and open up and then decide maybe certain things shouldn’t be opened up like beaches, and bars, and nightclubs, the European Union has just announced that Americans are not welcome in Europe. Our military is being advised not to visit the state of Florida because the state of Florida is now considered the number one hotspot in the nation. And at the same time, we have retail operations that are trying to open up and stay open, and that’s why today we have our guest, my dear friend Eddie Dikes who has been running Weston Jewelers for almost 20 years. But before we start, I want to, as usual, thank those people who help make this possible. Again, Oppenheim Law, Weston Title, Geoff Sherman, my partner, Ellen Pilelsky, my partner and wife, as well as Paola Vergara who has been helping with these Zoom presentations from the beginning.
So, let’s get going, if I may, and, by the way, for those of you who are uninitiated to this, this is supposed to be interactive. I expect questions, comments, and maybe even some challenges along the way in terms of what we’re trying to achieve here. And again, we serve as a guide. We’re trying to get us all through this, trying to figure out what’s going to happen, what’s around the next curve, and what this means to yourself, your family, your businesses, your vendors, your clients. And how to stay safe and remain calm as well as successful during this economic and social crisis that we now have found ourselves in. So as we proceed, we’re gonna do the weekly unemployment and economic update, the pandemic update, what Broward County, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach County are doing. How this is all affecting the real estate business and then, of course, we’re gonna be talking to Eddie from Weston Jewelers about how he as a retailer at the Hard Rock is dealing with all this craziness. Next page, please.
So as I indicated, we’ve been in business, Oppenheim Law, since 1989. We founded the firm, Ellen and myself, at that time. Geoff Sherman has been with us for over 10 years as a partner. And the same thing for the title company. We’ve been serving the community for all these years and particularly have unique expertise in having taken people through the last economic crisis representing thousands of homeowners during the real estate foreclosure crisis and the last Great Recession. Who were we to think that this crisis was gonna somehow be greater than that one and that that was our training ground to assist all of you here today? So, again, without you, none of this would exist. We thank you for joining us and, again, we expect you to ask some questions and participate interactively.
As I indicated, this is our team. Let me mention a little bit about Eddie, if I may. Ed is a co-founder and CEO of Weston Jewelers, it’s a family-owned and operated business that he owns with his wife Tracey. And Eddie’s born in Argentina, he’s a member of the American Watch Guild, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and Jewelers, and most importantly, he’s a dear friend and someone that we hold very dear. So, let’s proceed, if we may.
So, last time we talked about the variables that make this time the best time for selling or refinancing your home, and this week still is the same. And this week, we’re gonna talk about the guidelines and procedures that businesses must follow in the tri-county area to remain open and to reduce civil liability risks. And I’ve mentioned this before and I just want to mention again that to a large extent, people are assuming the risk when they now go indoors where they go indoor to a restaurant, if they go indoor to a store, they go indoor to any kind of office. And many places are now starting to use releases just like the president did during his last convention that he held asking people to sign waivers. And so typically, that is gonna be the norm and we’re advising many of our clients to use these kinds of waivers so people understand that there are inherent risks that go beyond the responsibility and liability of the business. Having said that, if certain businesses do not follow the norms, they could be held liable and we’re gonna talk about that a little bit now. [inaudible 00:04:27]. Next page, please. Thank you.
So, we’re gonna talk about the weekly unemployment and economic update. It’s very interesting and these charts are very descriptive of what’s going on, I wanna share these with you. [inaudible 00:04:41]. Okay, let’s proceed.
So, what we’re seeing here is monthly retail sales and it’s kind of fascinating how retail sales have continued to increase dramatically since 2009 during the recession and capped, really, at January 2020. Then there was this precipitous decline, literally falling off the cliff, and then we see, primarily because of the government stimulus, you see that big hook that’s coming back with the orange ball at the top, we’re seeing a remarkable increase in consumer spending, much of which comes from the PPP and much of it comes from unemployment benefits as well as from other government programs. And so we’ve seen this two-thirds rebound in consumer spending, but we’ll talk to Eddie about how long that will actually last. In fact, Eddie, how long do you think that’s gonna last once the government stimulus program ends, if I can get you on?
Eddie: Give me one second, I’m muted.
Roy: You’re muted, hang on. One sec, you’re muted. You have to unmute.
Eddie: Got it.
Roy: Okay, start again. We had you on mute, I apologize. So how long do you think the retail surge will continue in terms of once these stimulus programs end?
Eddie: That’s a good question. I give it maybe another 45 days, I would say, and then it’s gonna plateau out. That’s where I see it. I don’t see it for more than that.
Roy: Roy, do you think also a lot of people have saved a lot of money, and so as long as they can spend it, they may want to because they are so cooped up?
Eddie: Yeah. I mean, I see a lot of pent-up demand occurring right now. Again, being very conservative as far as how long that’s gonna last for, I’m just concerned about possibly having another, you know, if they close us down again, it’ll be, you know, disastrous, you know, so I don’t know where we’re gonna be at with that.
Roy: Wanna go to the next slide. Thanks for sharing that thought because you’re literally in the trenches on the ground. Let’s go to the next slide. Okay, so this is kind of fascinating, this is the unemployment road to recovery. We’re seeing different recessions here and how long they took. We look at the light green one, it went out six years, that was from the Great Recession. All the other spaghetti strands took one, two, three, four years. But the problem is the blue hook at the bottom, if we can just show that at the very bottom. That is us right now and that little hook back up is where we come back up. So, at that, if we come up at that same pace, you know, it’s gonna take, you know, two and a half years but the reality is it’s not gonna go straight back up, it’s going to start spaghetti-ing out. And so most advisors are suggesting that this could be six, eight, 10 years till we’re back at a full recovery and the answer is, who really knows? But it is fascinating to compare where we are right now in the scheme of things, generally.
Let’s proceed. Okay, let’s go over to the pandemic update a little bit because this all has a lot to do with where we are right now. Okay, so what we’re really seeing here on the left is what the country looked like just in February and where we are here in June, and the red obviously speaks for itself. And, you know, this is kind of like a war. Eddie and I were talking about this earlier and right now, as “The New York Times” would suggest, you know, we’re not really winning this war. Move on to the next page.
And, you know, it’s, you know, there have been these massive increases, particularly in Florida, where we’re literally exponentially doubling every few weeks right now. And the CDC as well as the WHO is suggesting that whatever we’re doing is not really working, and so we all need to figure out how to make this work for ourselves and how to try and keep the economy open to the extent possible. The good news, of course, is that there haven’t been that many new deaths yet but the CDC and the WHO is suggesting that there’s usually a lag between the number of cases and the number of deaths, and so that’s kind of the big crisis. And, of course, the other issue is that a lot of young people are getting it this time around, and the problem is that while they may do fine, they’re going to infect older people who typically don’t do as well. Next page.
Well, as we talked about, you know, the Florida spike has been substantial, beaches are now closed for July 4th weekend and there were lots of orders, reverses openings of bars as well as nightclubs. And so, the good thing is that the people who are getting sick are younger but, of course, they may infect older people. And the question now is, how do these businesses stay safe and legally protect themselves from any potential liability from their customers as well as their employees?
Specifically, let’s go over Broward County real quickly if we can. So, Broward County is now requiring face masks to be worn at all retail and food establishments, and that was starting June 15th, and that all businesses must post signage about facial coverings. The signs have to be in place where they remain visible. It’s suggested that they not only be in English and Spanish, but also in Creole. And then starting June 26th, businesses that don’t enforce the law, you know, are gonna be substantially fined and repeat violators will be subject to fines up to $15,000. And so, a lot of building inspectors are now or are now running around actually trying to enforce this particular law and so most businesses are now starting to comply but there was lack of compliance particularly with bars and nightclubs until very recently. Next.
Man 3: You got a question actually, Roy. Do you think the waivers for businesses will be enforceable?
Roy: Do we think the waivers will be enforceable? You know what, I think it’s an assumption of risk. I talked about this before, it’s very similar to, like, when you do something that’s inherently dangerous like going snow skiing. You know, on the back of that ticket, it makes it very clear that you’re waiving your rights in terms of liability if you slip and fall and hurt yourself because it’s something apparently dangerous. And what we’re suggesting here is that going out, going inside somewhere is, unfortunately, effectively an inherently dangerous thing today in that you choose to do it at your own risk. And if someone’s being good enough to keep their business open to serve you as the patron, you can’t then turn around and sue that person unless they are falling below the standard of care. So, while there may be a waiver of liability as it relates to simple negligence, willful and wanton disregard for the other person’s health and welfare cannot probably be waived under any circumstances. And there are situations out there now where some employers are not doing the right thing, and so waiver or not, there’s probably the potential that they will be sued anyway. But if everyone’s trying to do the right thing, they’re following the CDC guidelines, they’re following the county guidelines, they’re following World Health Organization recommendations, under those circumstances, you know, I think that people will probably be able to… Eddie, you wanted to chime in there?
Eddie: I couldn’t hear. I’m sorry, I have no volume at all but now, I changed over to my phone.
Roy: Okay, so we’re talking about the Broward County requirements in terms of what is required of a merchant today and we’re talking about, you know, what’s the possibility of being sued. And I was saying that as long as you do the right thing, the chances of being sued, especially if you have a waiver or a sign, you know, that could be helpful. I was just curious [00:12:25] your thoughts on that, especially at the Hard Rock which is such a large place in the first place.
Eddie: Yeah. So, at the Hard Rock, they have something called “Safe and Sound,” and they actually are actually ordering us, either [inaudible 00:12:37] that we’re abiding by all the rules. Of course, there’s an area, of course, would be six feet away from each other and there’s, like, little stickers on the floor they put in our actual establishment. I have cleaners in every counter so that we can…everybody can clean their hands. And so we’re abiding by all the rules. There’s a safety class of the POS system.
So, you know, the only problems that we do see a slight problem is, you know, everybody must use a facial mask when going in there, and some people, you know, they keep it a little bit lower and not where they’re supposed to. So, that’s the only issue that I see but other than that, they are going around cleaning thoroughly. They’re taking everybody’s temperature, actually, coming into the Hard Rock. So, if anybody has above 100.4, they’re not letting them in, which is a great thing. They’re working on about 40% capacity right now, but they do say that there’s gonna be about a hundred percent capacity this weekend. It will be pretty full, so we’ll see what happens then.
Roy: First of all, 100.4 is a low migraine fever, you know, a low-grade fever. [crosstalk 00:13:48]
Roy: But I’m not a doctor so I won’t chime in on that. But tell me…
Eddie: Right, exactly.
Roy: …what happens to someone who wants to come in and not wear a mask into your establishment, what happens?
Eddie: Well, we explain to them that they must wear masks to protect themselves and, of course, to protect others and us, of course, as well. And we just tell them, “Please, put your mask on.” And if they proceed not to, we actually have security that’s actually around us constantly now and they just tell them, you know, they take them. I’ve seen them walk them outside and then actually walk them out, off the premises and just say, “Okay, you can’t come back,” you know. So they’re really strict about that, extremely strict.
Roy: And I understand you’re offering free hand-washing for every single person who comes in the store?
Eddie: Yes, we do. So as soon as a person walks into our establishment in both stores, basically, we sanitize their hands coming in and we sanitize their hands leaving. So, if they go to touch a piece of jewelry, they have clean hands and it’s all sanitized. The jewelry has been all cleaned and sanitized. We actually sanitize the store every single morning using the proper chemicals that the CDC recommends. So, both establishments are probably as clean or cleaner than your home right now. We’ve been changing the air filters more often as well, every couple of weeks instead of on a monthly basis now.
Roy: Very interesting. Any question?
Man 3: Are you saying that every customer must sign a waiver of liability, and if so, wouldn’t businesses dry up?
Eddie: The what? I’m sorry, go ahead.
Man 3: Sure. Are you saying that every customer must sign a waiver of liability, and if so, wouldn’t the businesses dry up?
Eddie: No, they’re not signing a waiver. No, I don’t have them do that but I do basically have them sanitize their hands in and sanitize their hands out. I don’t have them sign a waiver. I don’t think anybody’s really doing that right now.
Roy: Right. Does the Hard Rock have a sign up, or does your store have a sign?
Eddie: It does. There is signage, yes, that’s in English and Spanish, and then I understand that we might have to put it…do it in Creole as well. I don’t know what the story is with that yet. But it’s in English and Spanish, you know, saying that they must wear a mask coming in, they must sanitize their hands. And the good thing about the Hard Rock is also that every, probably about 20 feet, there is a hand sanitizer out in the hallways and, of course, in all the casino area. And in the casino area, they’re actually wiping down all the machines and I’ve seen it. They have all these, they call them “Safe and Sound” people that are there that are actually cleaning everything and wiping everything down as soon as somebody steps off or steps away from one of the gaming machines or wherever they’re at, they’re there cleaning right away.
Roy: Let’s go to page 15, if we can, just stay there and…actually, we’ll go to 16, actually. Miami-Dade County. Okay, so Miami-Dade County is now requiring everyone to wear masks even on the street, that the signs have to be at the point of entry of every establishment. Again, the signs have to be in English and Spanish and I believe also Creole. Dos and don’ts. Make sure you can breathe through your mask. Wear it whenever you’re going out in public. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth. And, of course, wash after you’re done. Don’t use if you’re under two years old and use surgical masks or other PPE if it’s intended for healthcare workers. Again, there’s a fine for 15,000 bucks in Dade County, too, for establishments that don’t follow this. We saw that South Beach was having some problems a few weeks ago.
Hey, Eddie, I don’t know if you saw, but there’s some casinos in Vegas, they’re now being sued by their employees because the proprietors of the establishments were not adequately protecting their employees particularly after employees, other employees had gotten the virus. And those employees were not particularly told and were not instructed to take further precautions.
Eddie: Yeah, I did see that. I really believe, though, that Hard Rock is really doing a great job of taking care of all their people. They closed down right away once they saw there were the issues back in March and they really are taking that extra step to make sure that it is a very clean and sterile environment. And they even have, like I said, those Safe and Sound people but they also have extra security that makes sure that they’re abiding by all the laws.
Roy: So this may be a little bit [inaudible 00:18:20], but the beaches are closed and you’re gonna have a full Hard Rock this weekend. I mean, what are they gonna be doing with the swimming pool?
Eddie: That’s a really great question. I asked them and they’re gonna work on having plenty of security there outside and making sure that people stay their distance. Making sure that the groups of people are actually groups of people that have been together and not just random people joining other people and making it an unsafe environment. So, they’re taking a lot of precautions, they told me. So I think it’s gonna be pretty safe there.
Roy: So, let’s go on to the next slide. Moving to a new normal. And there’s a question actually that I have that someone just asked and that is, “What’s gonna happen when the government stimulus programs end? What will that do to the economy?” And I’ll give that a first shot. First of all, there are probably gonna be new stimulus programs that are gonna come along. They may be just towards people not being evicted, not being foreclosed, that there’ll be some fund that possibly will be [inaudible 00:19:32] in the state of Florida [inaudible 00:19:33]. And then, I guess, you know, we’re gonna have to see what happens, I guess, but what are your thoughts on that, Ed?
Eddie: I agree with you. I think there’s gonna be, whether it’s gonna be more PPP money going out there or whatever, you know, in other ways, of course. But there’s definitely gonna be more funding if by any chance they have to start closing things down. I think, you know, I know that they closed down gyms today and [crosstalk 00:20:05] I’m concerned about… What is that?
Roy: That may be in another state, I’m not sure if that was in Florida.
Eddie: Oh, not in Florida yet? Okay. Okay, I thought that was in Florida. But I’m just concerned about restaurants now possibly closing down since bars are no longer allowed to serve liquor any longer. And I do have my concerns, of course, about retail. As long as we all abide by the laws of what we’re supposed to do, I mean, literally, we’re in a war here. This is the “pandemic war,” I call it. Thank God we don’t have to send our children to war. This is, the only thing they’re asking us is to wear the mask, stay six feet apart, and constantly clean your hands. I mean, if we all do that, the numbers will definitely go down.
Roy: You know, that’s interesting. I was reading a study that in Japan, the subway system stayed open and the usage level remained around 80% kind of, unlike in New York where the usage level, you know, dropped about 15% or 20%. And the question was why is that in Tokyo, where the subway cars are usually absolutely packed, were they able to keep the COVID levels so low? And the answer is people culturally have always worn masks and more importantly, people generally don’t talk to each other that much on the subway. Either they’re tired or just [inaudible 00:21:26]. And so, when there’s less communicating and less breathing on each other and people are wearing masks, it really does work. And so, well, to win this war, all we have to do is just follow some basic instructions, you know? That’s the great irony here.
Eddie: Right, right. It is a war for sure.
Roy: Let’s talk about Palm Beach because, you know, what’s really strange about the state of Florida, we were one of the last states to really shut down and we were one of the first states to open up. And now we are the shining light of having the largest hotspot in the world. And so, obviously, we’re not doing something correct. But in Palm Beach now, they’re trying to catch up a little bit and there, too, you know, people have to wear masks, signs have to be put up. And, again, violations, violations are much lower in Palm Beach than they are in Broward or Dade County. They start at $250 and $500 but it is for individual violations. And now I think they’ve even set up a phone number where you can call to report violators if you want to do that, which I’m not advising but it is something that is available.
Next page, please. So in terms of the real estate business, you know, one of the things we wanna talk about a little bit is how do Realtors continue to stay in business and do it safely. And if we go to the next slide, we see that obviously everyone should be wearing a face mask, no one should be touching stuff, people should be washing their hands constantly, the usual stuff that we’ve heard over and over. But more importantly, there are some great 3D imaging systems that are being set up now where Realtors are able to show up at a home while their client is actually not at the place and almost feel like, through virtual reality, that they are physically present. And so, for Realtors, you know, I know some are still doing open houses and it’s probably not something that is the best thing to do. Is there a question? No.
Okay. Real quick, let’s go to the next slide then. Property showing rules, again, people should be wearing protective masks, they should have the sanitizer, practice social distancing, avoid touching surfaces, and then when the showing’s over, you know, obviously remove your trash. I mean, most of this is just basic, basic stuff. It’s unfortunate that in some cases, we even have to explain this to you or to ourselves because in some cultures, this has been the norm for, you know, literally 20 years or, you know, even longer. And so, culturally we have to accept some changes and I know there are some people who don’t wanna do that and field their constitutional issues. But the real issue is, you know, your right to survive and to live, and these are things that [inaudible 00:24:12] that is a way to protect you as well as everyone else. What are your thoughts on all of this?
Eddie: Well, look at that, cute picture. Do you see it?
Man 3: Yeah. Okay, now I see it, sorry. I kind of lost you a little bit for a little bit.
Roy: No, I mean, so what are your thoughts long-term about, you know, in terms of the business thriving yet keeping people safe, I mean, how does that jive, you know?
Eddie: You know, as far as keeping people’s faith and I do believe, you know, of course, as soon as that vaccine comes out, I’ve been talking to a few people and some people that I know that are pretty close to the medical, you know, they’re…everybody’s talking January that that’s gonna be when we possibly come out with a vaccine. So that’s gonna be the big boom. Okay, we come up with a vaccine and I think that the economy will just take off and we’ll see numbers that we’ve never seen ever before. Until then, it’s gonna be up and down. It’s gonna be like the stock market basically. You know, it’s gonna be a great day, an average day, a day that just plummets, and then another day that just, you know, because it’s, a lot of this is gonna be controlled. Especially in retail and everything, it’s gonna be controlled as to whether or not people can actually go out to the store and actually make the purchase. We’re doing quite a bit of e-commerce now. We’ve bumped up our e-commerce in a big way starting, of course, in March. We had no choice. Luckily in January, we came out with a brand new e-commerce site, so that helped. And I find that the e-commerce business is just absolutely booming right now.
Roy: This idea of pent-up demand would be consistent with the Roaring Twenties. I mean, here you had the Spanish Flu in 1919 [inaudible 00:26:12], right. And then boom, the Roaring Twenties, right? I mean, everything was roaring, the economy was roaring. [inaudible 00:26:18] were going crazy, they were going out, I mean, you know, prohibition was lifted. I mean, there were so many things that were going on at that point in time and everything just came up. You know, a lot of it was pent-up demand and people just, I mean, that [inaudible 00:26:32].
Eddie: Right. I think the same thing will happen, absolutely. The only thing is please don’t take away our liquor, okay? Don’t do that. We have to have liquor, doesn’t matter. For sure.
Roy: One or two questions we have, and then we’re gonna have to call it a day. Let’s see here. “I have accompanied buyer’s agents with their clients on property tours and the things buyers look at can never be rendered in virtual tours, so thankfully buyers are not substituting site visits with virtual presentations.” I think that’s a…I think that makes a lot of sense but at the same time, there are a lot of people, a lot of homeowners that really don’t want to necessarily have people come through their homes. And so if you’ve got the… I mean, the best home to sell is a home where people are not living there anymore so you don’t have to have to deal with both sides, you just deal with the side of the people who are looking as opposed to people who are still living in [inaudible 00:27:23].
Roy: You have any questions there?
Man 3: No, that’s it.
Roy: Okay. Anyway, I think we’re out of time, Eddie. Do you want, anything…listen, you know, this was great. I wanna thank you so much for [inaudible 00:27:35].
Eddie: Thank you. Thank you for having me, I appreciate it. And everybody, please wear their mask, please abide by the laws, please make sure that everybody around you do the same, okay? I appreciate being on.
Roy: We will be on next week again, Zoom at Noon, with another topic that will be right on point, based on what is going on at that moment that’s going to be concerning all our lives. In the meantime, you know, be safe, and be confident, and we’re all in this together. Take care. Have a [inaudible 00:28:06].
Eddie: Thank you. Take care.
Roy: Take care. Bye-bye.