The second “wave” of business closures due to rising COVID-19 cases in San Diego, had local business owners experiencing a range of feelings from fear to hope, stress, and worry, with the overall sense of being overburdened, singled-out and unfairly treated.
Effective midnight July 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered counties on the watch list to shut down numerous industries, unless, they can be modified to operate outside or by pick-up, for a second time. Those include fitness centers, worship services, protests, offices for non-essential sectors, personal care services like nail salons, body waxing and tattoo parlors, hair salons and barbershops, and malls. Indoor operations as well were closed at dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, and card rooms.
Additionally, bars, brewpubs, breweries, and pubs statewide had to close all operations both indoor and outdoor.
“We have been seeing an increasing number of cases and we need to take further action now,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We’re following state guidance to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Outdoor operations can occur under a tent, canopy or other sun shelter but only if the sides are not closed and there is sufficient outdoor air movement.
“We were doing everything right and as far as we know not one of our guests or employees have been exposed to the coronavirus,” said Barbara Iacometti of Details SalonSpa at 4993 Niagara Ave. “This is a hard hit for us. We have already been closed down for three months. And now how long will it be this time? People have been afraid to come out so shutting us down again may be the answer. But we need more relief funding if the small businesses are able to stay in business.”
Darin Wright owner of OB Barbershop at 1917 Cable St. said he felt like he’d been “kicked in the gut.”
“What a heart breaker,” Wright lamented. “We were just barely starting to climb out this hole we got in during the first lockdown.”
Noting he was closed the first time around for 10 weeks, Wright said his business bounced back for a week or two after reopening, then died. “June was pretty brutal,” he said. “We were busy the first week or two, but then it just stopped. I guess people still are really scared of catching this thing. That’s holding a lot of people back.”
Wright said he’s begun noticing a lot of his regulars are wearing their hair longer these days than they used to.
“It stinks,” said Kyle Jaworski of Raglan Public House at 1850 Bacon St. about the re-closures. “We’ve done our best to get back to normal. We’re operating with the highest standards possible. We’ve found ways to pivot, but it’s not easy. Every time you reopen you’re spending money to restock and hire your employees back. It’s a burden.”
At Point Loma Sports Club at 2751 Roosevelt Road, owner Gary Rubin said: “Our top priority has, and always will be, keeping our members and staff safe and healthy. We also have to face the economic realities of trying to maintain a viable business during a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic. “Fortunately, we feel like we are uniquely positioned to achieve both of those goals simultaneously. … With a ton of motivation and member support, we just completed an ambitious plan to move 60,000 pounds of equipment from our indoor areas to our new outdoor venue. The member appreciation has been outstanding, and the cool breeze invigorating under the shade of our massive tent.”
Point Loma attorney David Dick took issue with the second state business shutdown.
“This resurgence is a problem that is caused by a minority of businesses and fellow citizens who fail or refuse to follow guidance and take common-sense measures to keep themselves and those they come into contact with safe and healthy,” he said. “The problem cannot be laid at the feet of the population as a whole. And it is not susceptible to one-size-fits-all solutions. But by reinstating his draconian shutdown orders, Gov. Newsom punishes everyone. In short, Newsom is again trying to perform an operation with a hammer that should be done with a scalpel and simply hoping it works.”
Point Loma community planner and activist Margaret Virissimo sensed the second closure coming.
“We all pretty much had a strange feeling the time would come when all would close up again with the Fourth of July beach openings here in San Diego and the continued protests throughout San Diego,” she said.
“It seems a bit unfair that local businesses, who have worked extremely hard to abide by all the proposed opening guidelines and are enforcing all sanitizing and social-distance requirements, have to now close again losing many employees that they just recently hired back only to send them all back to the unemployment lines. Hopefully, this closure will not last long in our community because our mom-and-pop shops are struggling big time to keep doors open and make ends meet during this costly pandemic,” Virissimo said.
“It hurts my heart to think of the small-business owners in Point Loma and how much stress they’re under,” said Sarah Moga Alemany, a Peninsula Community Planning Board member. “I’m also crushed for the children who will not be going back to school. It’s truly heartbreaking to think of everything children are missing out on. I hope we can get cases down enough to keep people safe and reopen safely in the near future.”
Keith Rolle, winemaker and managing partner of Gianni Buonomo at 4836 Newport Ave., where he makes wine and has a tasting room, said both COVID closures have eliminated much of his business. “We were closed for three months,” he said, adding, “We put up all our social distancing, had a wine steward go to the front door and escort every client in and serve them glasses for our tastings. But then that got shut down.”
Pointing out he’s worried about the future because he’s contractually obligated “for full production this fall,” Rolle said he’s thankful for residents who continue to support him and are “sad for us.”
Erica Hartman of OB Waves Salon at 4989 Voltaire St. finds it difficult to understand the necessity for closing businesses again.
“As a small business in Ocean Beach the past seven years, I have committed my time, my education, and continued training to the salon industry,” Hartman said. “We are regulated by the Board of Cosmetology, which sets the standards for sanitation and disinfection. I have exhausted all funds to safely reopen our licensed establishment.
“Clients and stylists are equipped with disposable masks, we allow for disinfection time between clients, and we are working at limited capacity to ensure proper distancing. As a licensed professional by the State of California, I do not see the reasoning, nor have I seen any facts, about hair salons passing this virus to other people.”
Miles McPherson, pastor of the Rock Church in Liberty Station, issued a five-minute presentation on YouTube to his ministry.
“We miss worshiping together,” he said. “We’re so blessed to see how our church has stepped up serving the community bringing food and meals to hospitals, the police and first responders. As far as the future goes, we don’t know how long it’s going to be until we can meet again. I would say it’s a minimum of three to four months, if at all this year."
Added McPherson: “Is faith about going to a building? We have a great opportunity to redefine and bring more clarity to what our faith means to us as a group and as individuals.”