081419_MNS_Lenox_60_001 Robin Suggs Sam Massell Vivan DuBose

From left, Robin Suggs, Lenox Square mall’s general manager; Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell and Vivan DuBose, president and CEO of Noble Properties Inc., each spoke at its 60th anniversary celebration event Aug. 1, 2019.

Simon Property Group, the Indianapolis-based company that owns Buckhead’s Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls, has delayed the opening of Lenox and possibly Phipps and other Georgia shopping centers it owns by three days after they were closed for over a month due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With the federal and state governments lifting restrictions on businesses that had to close due to the outbreak, Lenox and Phipps were to reopen May 1, according to multiple news reports. Simon was to host a media reopening event at Lenox that day.

But a company spokeswoman April 30 said the reopening and media event had been postponed until May 4 “in conjunction with the department stores” reopening that day. She said more information was forthcoming in a news release.

A CNBC news report posted to its website April 28 stated Simon, which owns about 50 properties overall, would reopen in phases May 1, 2 and 4.

According to the report, “Business hours at the malls and outlet centers will be limited to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, to allow for cleaning overnight, according to the memo. Simon said it will regularly sanitize high-touch areas such as food court tables, escalators, door knobs and electronic directories. And it is encouraging retailers to do the same in their stores.”

Simon had closed all of its U.S. retail properties March 18 due to the pandemic. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter-in-place order went through April 30, but on that day, he announced in a news release the order would not be extended.

However, he said he is asking all businesses in Georgia to “continue to operate with strict social distancing and sanitation rules to keep customers and employees safe through May 13,” and is lengthening a public health state of emergency in Georgia through June 12.

While the reason for Lenox’s reopening delay is unclear, it could be tied to the National Retail Federation’s strategy to launch Operation Open Doors, a plan to reopen stores through “gradual, phased-in approach” with precautions outlined by President and CEO Matthew Shay in a news release posted to the federation’s website April 26. On that day, Shay also sent a letter to President Donald Trump about its plans.

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