Rules from city and state officials seem to change every hour, customers have disappeared and stressed employees need to know whether they will get a paycheck at the end of the week.
Business owners of all shapes and sizes are getting hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.
A week ago, restaurant operators were focused primarily on keeping their tables cleaned and convincing customers it was okay to eat at their establishment. Today, they are trying to decide whether it makes sense to keep the kitchen open for take-out orders.
“We’re battening down the hatches,” Jason Van Fleet said last week at Dutch’s Brewhouse in Bixby Knolls. “We’re eventually going to have to cut hours… Fortunately, we have an extremely supportive community up here. They’ve shown they care about us.”
Wednesday morning, Van Fleet was taking to-go orders, including for the craft beers he brews onsite. That’s the case for every restaurant and brewpub in the city, after an order from Long Beach’s public health officer, Dr. Anissa Davis.
The only other option is to close, at least temporarily.
“Due to the unforeseen circumstances and precautionary measures undertaken to control the spread of COVID-19, we have decided it is best to close our kitchen (at Chianina) for the foreseeable future,” owner Michael Dene emailed customers this week.. “We do not feel we would be able to give our guests the same level of service and quality we pride ourselves on with take-out and delivery orders only.”
Dene’s Michael’s On Naples, Michael’s Pizzeria and Michael’s Downtown all are offering takeout.
Coffee shops from chain stores to individually owned are staying open, with the change being people are not allowed to stay once they have their drinks. Customers at Polly’s Gourmet Coffee in Belmont Shore have taken matters into their own hands, bringing lawn chairs and visiting in the parking lot.
The Grunion is maintaining a list of restaurants still open for business including contact information at TheGrunion.com/open, and it is updated frequently.
Business groups and elected officials suggest buying gift cards now, with plans to use them after the pandemic passes, as a way to support restaurants until the ban on dine-in service is lifted. Bars and nightclubs have been ordered to close completely.
Another business segment hit hard by government orders has been the “gyms and other fitness facilities” required to close to the public under the health officer’s order. That includes yoga and personal fitness studios.
“We know exercise boosts immunity and helps us de-stress (which I would argue is essential right now), so the last thing we want is folks staying sedentary in their homes, feeling anxious over the day’s headlines,” said Emily Duvall Ledger, owner of The Studio, a fitness center in Bixby Knolls. “And especially for those living with Parkinson’s, staying active and staying social are vital lifelines for maintaining quality of life — inactivity and isolation can exacerbate neurological symptoms.”
Ledger said she is offering outdoor group classes in parks, where safe social distancing (six feet from the nearest person) can be practiced. At home training is an option, and online classes are growing, she said.
Public schools and universities are focusing on web-based learning during the crisis, and another fitness business is going there, too.
“We saw a huge drop in attendance (even before the closure order),” said Cassandra Vitale, owner of Free Spirit Yoga. “We’re offering online courses how. This situation is a good opportunity for innovation.”
The online approach has allowed Vitale to keep her yoga instructors employed. And internet training may increase the number of customers at the member-based studio, she added.
Other wellness businesses face their own challenges and have come up with their own solutions.
“We have outfitted all of our offices with hand sanitizer, medical grade air purifiers, and are diligently cleaning all surfaces,” said Sara Kay Godot, chief operation officer at Psych Lab Psychology Center in Bixby Knolls. “We are also offering teletherapy sessions for any clients who are at risk, or simply not comfortable leaving the house.
“We find it very important to not stop offering our service as we believe taking care of your mental health is very important especially in times of crisis.”
Most retail stores can remain open under the current restrictions; the issue is whether they can attract enough customers to make it worthwhile. In efforts to make stores safe, owners and employees spend lots of time wiping down surfaces, and debit or credit cards and touchless payment methods are encouraged.
Touching customers is a part of many businesses, though. Crystal Rogers, owner of Lucy’s Boudoir, has made a living with custom-fit bras for years.
“We are drastically modifying our services to comply with the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing, and have begun to provide fittings over the phone and by email,” Rogers said.
“The updates regarding COVID changes minute by minute. So we can make plans to proceed in one way, but be faced with the need to change one hour later based off of the latest news report. It’s really unsettling.”
The gift card option of support mentioned for restaurants works well for retail shops, too, business association leadeers said.
“These are difficult times for everyone,” Belmont Shore Business Association director Dede Rossi said. “But together, we can survive and be ready to come back stronger than ever.”