‘We don’t have any choice.’ Local malls prepare to follow governor’s latest closures

Gov. Kim Reynolds' latest emergency order closes many retail stores in already-challenged malls. (Photo by Linh "Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the latest round of mandated business closures on Thursday, ordering non-essential retailers to shut their doors by 10 p.m. in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Retail stores, including stores selling books, clothing and shoes, jewelry, luggage, cosmetics, perfume and beauty supplies, furniture and home furnishings will be required to close until at least April 7, according to the governor’s orders.

For Des Moines-area malls that are already under economic pressure due to brick-and-mortar vacancies, the governor’s announcement adds another economic burden as tenants are forced to shut their doors, cutting revenue streams and mall traffic.

“We don’t have any choice,” said Trisha Barton, spokesperson for Valley West Mall in West Des Moines. “We have to abide by what is going on now and we have to be good stewards for our community.”

Jordan Creek Town Center, Valley West Mall and Merle Hay Mall plan on keeping their exterior doors open for customers to visit “essential stores.”

At Valley West Mall, Lens Crafters, Pearle Vision and Concepts by Iowa Hearing Aid Centers will remain open for customers. Restaurants are still offering to-go and delivery options, such as Mac Shack, Chipotle, Blaze Pizza and Jimmy John’s.

Merle Hay Mall’s restaurants like Vietnam Cafe, Tamale’s Industry, IHOP, Applebee’s, Lazize Mediterranean, Stu’s BBQ, Panda Express and Maid-Rite will remain open. Target, which is considered essential, will also remain open.

Jordan Creek Town Center also plans on keeping its restaurants open for to-go and delivery orders.

Some national retailers are informing their landlords they will not pay April rent due to the significant loss of income during the pandemic. The Cheesecake Factory, Mattress Firm and Subway sent letters to landlords, according to Fortune.

Lindsay Kahn, spokesperson for Brookfield Properties, which owns Jordan Creek Town Center, declined to share if tenants were withholding rent or if the property company was negotiating payments. The Cheesecake Factory is a restaurant anchor at the mall.

Representatives from both Valley West and Merle Hay malls said they’re working with tenants on lease payments, but they also emphasized they also have their own bills to pay.

“This is a completely unprecedented turn of events,” said Liz Holland, Merle Hay Mall owner. “We’re always happy to work with people who want to work with us, with the understanding our obligation doesn’t go away just because our tenants can’t pay.”