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Central Mall opens today: Stores can open except hair salons, nail shops & barbers

The doors to the Central Mall are open, but inside some gates remain shuttered and shops closed as independent owners and corporations mull over the safety standards required to return to work.

The mall will officially open Friday with limited hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Sunday.

Central Mall Manager Benjie Pinell said doors will open an hour earlier for miscellaneous mall walkers and employees. Security officials, maintenance and housekeeping will enforce social distancing within the mall’s common areas.

All tables in front of food areas have been removed, and the play area is closed.

Doors, door handles, floors, windows, restrooms, benches and other common areas will be cleaned around the clock daily.

Central Mall will open today under limited hours. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

“We shouldn’t have too much of a problem with maintaining social distancing,” Pinell said. “We are a large mall and people often social distance without even realizing it, but we have trained all of our employees to watch for social distancing and to break up any large crowds.”

Individual stores will be responsible for their own social distancing and disinfecting efforts once opened. Under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s GA-18 executive order, retail stores, movie theaters, and shopping malls may operate up to 25 percent of the maximum capacity.

“Each store is already aware of the guidelines,” Pinell said. “Any store can open on their own terms except for the hair salons, nail shops and barbers that are ordered to stay closed under the executive order. Everyone else is able to open at their discretion.”

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie was unaware of Central Mall’s upcoming opening, but asked visitors to continue to use preventative measures against coronavirus.

“We talked about the number of exits and entrances at the mall,” Bartie said, referring to a discussion with fire and police chiefs. “It’s no way you can have a good count of people going in there. So, it’s going to be a lot of self-policing with these retail stores. But, I want the citizens to use common sense.

Pinell said while there is not a complete directory of stores opening this weekend, he expects many to trickle in over the coming weeks.

“We haven’t gotten a whole lot of response from other stores because they are all waiting on corporate,” he said. “Independent stores and kiosks in the mall are definitely opening, but we don’t have an exact count.”

The sign in front of Centra Mall. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

Pinell said he expects more stores will open back up next week after initial safety assessments and training.

An employee of Dillard’s said the Central Mall location will remain closed at this time, but will continue curbside services. Target will continue operating as is.

Other commercial stores were unreachable and customers are asked to monitor corporate websites and social media for updated information.

“For right now, till further notice, our doors will be open,” Pinell said. “Anything past a store’s individual gate is the responsibility of that owner. Other than that, we will follow safety and sanitation guidelines, provide what services we can to the our community, get moving and hope we can open back up as normal in the near future.”

The B&B Theatre located inside the mall has not announced a reopening date, but the Port Arthur location is one of many participating in a curbside popcorn pick up today and Saturday between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Proceeds go to provide health insurance benefits to local furloughed employees.

Editor I.C. Murrell contributed to this story.