Another rough patch for local businesses appears to be on the horizon since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued another a stay-at-home order on Thursday.
The order will go into effect whenever a California region’s ICU capacity falls to below 15%. According to the governor’s Thursday press conference, all regions including Santa Barbara County’s region of Southern California are projected to see ICU capacities fall to this level within the month.
As the stay-at-home order demands restaurants only do take out and retail stores only operate at 20% capacity, the new development is an unwelcoming one for businesses that have already gone through a tough year and are about to go enter an important earnings period, the holiday season.
Local business community organizations told the News-Press that they are gearing up for the stay-at-home order and prepared to help businesses in whatever ways they can. Though he deferred the News-Press to local businesses for comment, Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Glenn Morris told the News-Press in an email on Friday, “I am spending most of my time on that issue today.”
Santa Maria-based jewelry store Fischer’s Fine Jewelry owner Katherine Fischer, one of the business proprietors Mr. Morris deferred the News-Press to, said her store has already been operating at limited capacity for many months. Under COVID-19 conditions, the jewelry store hosts at most four customers at a time, as opposed to the 15 or so it could hold prior. Ms. Fischer remarked that she doesn’t expect the stay-at-home order to reduce her capacity to less than four people, but she still said it’s “very sad” that the region is likely to be hit by strict restrictions again.
Downtown Santa Barbara Executive Director Robin Elander called the new stay-at-home order a “devastating blow to our economic situation here,” particularly because many restaurants have made investments in new infrastructure for outdoor dining areas such as chairs, heaters, and patios. She estimated that investments Downtown Santa Barbara restaurants have made range from $5,000 and $50,000.
“They knew it was going to be their life blood. It was do that, or there’s no alternative,” she said.
Once they’re limited to just preparing food and drinks for takeout, those businesses will be right back to where they were during the first stay-at-home order in the spring or be in even worse shape, Ms. Elander said. She added that should the restrictions go into effect, Downtown Santa Barbara is going to encourage the community to “continue to shop local and to get as much takeout as they can.”
While Downtown Santa Barbara will continue its pre-stay-at-home order activities like its Thursday market on State Street as long as it can, the organization is working on methods of helping businesses get through the projected difficult period. These include digital pop-up holiday events, during which Downtown Santa Barbara will highlight businesses on social media for the two weeks leading up to Christmas, and the “Eat Program,” a grant-funded program through which the organization will buy up gift certificates from restaurants and give them to restaurant employees to feed themselves and their families.
Also, the Economic Development Collaborative will be offering mentorships to businesses if they need assistance in pivoting from in-person to online sales or any other issue related to doing business amid the pandemic. EDC mentorship is offered free of charge and can be received by contacting its intake coordinator at 805-409-9159 for English and 805-309-5874 for Spanish.
These resources will be listed on the Downtown Santa Barbara website, downtownsb.org.
Visit the Santa Ynez Valley President and CEO Shelby Sim told the News-Press that when the stay-at-home order becomes effective in Southern California, his organization will focus on promoting businesses in the Santa Ynez Valley to locals rather than out-of-towners.
“We’ll promote within. We’ll promote to locals, let locals know where they can grab some chow or a bottle of wine,” he said.
While not much pre-emptive action is being taken by Visit the Santa Ynez Valley as the stay-at-home order looms near, Mr. Sim said his organization, and other businesses for that matter, know what they’ll need to do once the time comes.
“We went through all this in March, so unfortunately it’s not our first rodeo, so everyone knows how they’ll need to pivot if the stay-at-home order does come down,” he said.email: firstname.lastname@example.org