Some businesses that closed again due to a spike in coronavirus cases now have a choice to remain operational: moving outside. Fortunately, that choice is being made easier by recent City action.
In response to the growing crisis, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has signed a new executive order extending the growing list of allowed outdoor options to hundreds of additional businesses. That list now includes gyms, worship centers, barbershops and nail salons, which are being allowed to expand their operations into private parking lots.
Local business improvement districts, La Jolla Village Merchants Association and Discover PB expressed fatigue – and gratitude – regarding this second wave of business closures. They also praised local government efforts to prop-up small businesses.
“This has been such a challenging time for all of us and especially hard for small business,” said Village Merchants Association executive director Jodi Rudick. “So, it’s exciting to see all of the creative outdoor dining options emerging in the Village.
La Jolla is taking on a European feel as courtyards, patios, sidewalks, parking lots and, even parking spaces come alive with al fresco dining. I’m looking forward to many more cafes to pop up as we move through the modifications.”
"The recent re-closure was a major hit as many businesses had just invested in reopening within a week of being re-closed, not just in social distancing infrastructure but the processes of hiring back staff and employees coming off unemployment, who now have to re-navigate the system,” said Discover PB’s executive director Sara Berns.
Noting the new prohibition barring some indoor operations follows on the heels of many PPP grants expiring, Berns added, “We fully support the efforts of our public health officials and the work they are doing and hope people will help by complying with social distance and mask mandates so that our businesses can get open again."
The degree to which local small businesses have been impacted by re-closing indoor activity due to COVID-19 has depended a lot on their nature and whether they do – or can – take their operations outside.
“We've been adjusting and dealing with it,” said Henish Pulickal of Pacific Beach, who is in the real estate and residential construction trades. “The first couple of months were a big adjustment, now it seems that it's becoming a new normal.
“Our family understands that attitude is everything, so we've got smiles under our annoying face masks. Business wise, real estate and construction has been very busy. People are still buying homes and many that aren't buying/selling are doing construction.”
Mission Beach resident Greg Knight, who owns a children’s party rental business, said he was crushed by the new temporary closure order.
“It is frustrating as hell,” he said. “The last week of June and right before July 4th weekend, we thought we were going to be able to pull out of part of this mess. We actually had a couple of weeks of good sales (relative still down 80% from last year but at least something). Right after the 4th of July weekend, we fell right back over a cliff.”
Added Knight: “Not only is it next to impossible to survive during the coronavirus times, but it has been a complete nightmare trying to figure out where to go from here. Do we prepare for the end of summer and fall, or should we just give up right now and assume that nothing is going to come back until late next year. If the government does not step in with more money, we have next to no chance of making it through this year.”
Restaurateur Mark Oliver, who owns Pueblo at 877 Hornblend St., said he has mixed feelings.
“As a business owner, I feel responsible to help stem the tide of the pandemic,” he said. “At the same time, Pueblo has responsibility to continue providing our services to the local community and employment for our staff.
“I appreciate the compromise given by the City in that restaurants have the opportunity to serve take-out meals and also to host outdoor dining guests. The allowance of sidewalk and parking lot tables, and in some cases to reserve space on the streets, is a huge plus toward mitigating the otherwise lost sales by the elimination of indoor dining.”
Added Oliver: “Our beach areas, with their vacation rentals and numerous restaurants already equipped with outdoor dining facilities, are positioned as well as any area in the county for attracting locals and visitors during the current pandemic circumstances. Most beach area restaurants are going to do well enough to survive for the next few months. The real question many of us restaurateurs are asking ourselves is how will we manage when the cold weather months will not be so hospitable for outdoor dining?”
PB resident Brian Curry, co-owner of Fitness West at 1880 Garnet Ave., commented on the new closure: “It is very frustrating and financially challenging, especially for small businesses. It seems ‘corporate’ welfare is readily accepted in Washington.
“However, when it comes to small businesses we have to fight and scratch for every dollar of assistance and be as creative as possible to stay financially sound. I understand the health crisis due to COVID-19 and the need for flattening the curve. However, a better policy on the part of the governor would be to have a funding mechanism in place for small businesses when they are ordered to cease operations and/or significantly curtail business operations.
“We would then be able to weather the shutdown, pay our rent, and keep the monetary food chain alive and sustainable. Unfortunately, that financial assistance is not readily available to most small businesses today.”
CrossFit PB at 1827 Garnet Ave. took a somewhat different tack. The fitness facility just finished shading its outdoor area to stay open through the shutdown, as well as painting a “giant yellow wall” as a fun community project next to the Silver Fox and Broken Yolk.