With Santa Barbara County moving into the orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday, local Chamber of Commerce officials are hopeful that the tier shift will further fuel the rolling economic recovery in the region.
Now that the county is in the orange tier, small businesses and restaurants can open at expanded capacity, movie theaters can welcome more guests and family activities, like bowling, can finally reopen.
When the county moved back into the red tier of restrictions back in March, businesses across the county started to see a comeback, and officials are hopeful the orange tier will further accelerate the region’s economic recovery.
“With every reopening, we see an improved economic environment,” Kristen Miller, the president and CEO of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce, told the News-Press in an email. “We are excited with the progress made but we need to continue safely allowing all businesses, in all sectors, the opportunity to work, staff up and move forward.”
Ms. Miller said some businesses are already taking advantage of the expanded capacity allowed in the orange tier, particularly event venues.
“This new tier allows for increased or unlimited capacity across many sectors and gives industries that have been on hold for over a year the opportunity to finally begin recovering,” Ms. Miller said. “We have already heard from hotel operators and individuals in the event industry that people are eagerly planning for weddings and other events so the impact of this tier change has been anticipated for some time. We are pleased that many more can get back to work.”
In Solvang, officials are eyeing a steady uptick in economic recovery that started when the county moved into the red tier back in March. This recovery is being seen particularly in retail sectors, where sales are spiking back up to pre-pandemic levels.
“We have (heard) a lot of businesses say last week their numbers are looking like 2019 numbers over (this year’s) spring break,” Tracy Beard, executive director of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, told the News-Press on Wednesday.
Despite this uptick in the retail sector, Ms. Beard said the restaurant industry in the Santa Ynez Valley is still struggling. Chilly evening weather has deterred some customers from dining at restaurants with outdoor seating in the evening, but with this move into the orange tier, Ms. Beard is hopeful the expanded capacity inside restaurants will prompt an economic comeback for one of the hardest-hit industries.
“I think (expanded capacity) allows people to get out of the cold,” Ms. Beard said. “I think our restaurants will pick up for dinner time. It’s been very cold and I think people have been very good to our restaurants to keep them alive.”
To aid further recovery among small businesses, the South Coast and Santa Maria Chambers are urging Hispanic business owners to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans between now and the May 21 application deadline. The PPP loan can help struggling businesses keep their workers on payroll by providing additional funds and in some cases can even provide loan forgiveness.
While funding remains available, the Chambers are encouraging Hispanic-owned businesses to apply before the May 21 application deadline to have a better shot at receiving needed relief.
For more information on PPP loans, visit sbscchamber.com/community/covid-19-information/apoyo-covid-19/.