CARLSBAD — Remote working has spared countless businesses from going under during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, for those with essential workers required for in-person working, a spike in coronavirus cases and trying to stay nimble with changing health orders, are sources of frustration.
Many are trying to survive, not only from a business perspective but to keep food on their family’s tables, according to Bret Schanzenbach, CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, and Christine Davis, executive director of Carlsbad Village Association.
“The restaurants have actually done an incredible job of activating their outdoor spaces,” Davis said. “I’m seeing robust business in restaurants. The personal service industry has been decimated. That has been very emotional and sad to watch.”
On July 20, though, Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed for barbers, nail salons and hairdressers to operate outside after closing them down several weeks ago. Still, the economic damage has been done, and Davis said when those orders for salons came “it took out the wind in my sails.”
Davis said those businesses have been crushed by two shutdowns, leading to frustration of how the county and state is handling the response. With the new orders, there may be hope for many of them to survive.
“Even though salons, barbers, and estheticians have been given the green light to move some services outside, it’s not practical for all and only applies to some,” Davis added. “Their industry still has challenging times ahead if they are required to stay closed much longer.”
Schanzenbach said it has grown to a point where some business owners are defying orders to close. Davis, meanwhile, said she has not seen or heard of any businesses in the village defying health orders.
He said those business owners have no other source of income, and with federal unemployment funding in question, they are fighting to stay alive.
Both Davis and Schanzenbach said their message is simple: to keep the economy open, wear a mask, wash hands thoroughly and socially distance. Schanzenbach said there is also a fear among a number of business owners following the guidelines, while some customers may not.
Those challenges not only put an employee’s safety at risk but injects a negative charge toward a business.
“When this started, there was a universal sense of this was going to be a collective pause … and then return to business as usual after two or three weeks,” Schanzenbach said. “Then it stretched out. Thankfully things started to open back up and get going on, but now that things have pulled back there is a difference. This is definitely different than March.”
As for the city, Davis said on July 28 the City Council will hear an item to open State Street to businesses. The proposal calls for closing off the street between Grand Avenue and Carlsbad Village Drive as a makeshift promenade, although the details are still being finalized for the council, she said.
Regardless, the situation is coming to a head, the pair said, as federal funds are running dry. Schanzenbach said there is still some money in the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), but did note the first round of funding left many small businesses on the outside looking in.
Congress redefined the number of employees in the CARES Act from 50 to 500 to be classified as a small business.
The second round was better, Schanzenbach said, but still, people are in jeopardy of losing their livelihoods and being on the hook for repayment of the PPP if they can’t get staffing levels back to where they were.
He stressed the importance of “masking up” and for residents to look out for their neighbors.
“There is a palpable concern and fear on the business owner side that people that are fed up and not wearing the masks are going to cause additional spikes,” Schanzenbach added. “Causing them to go out of business. The business owners are worried. If they’re not doing the little part they can do, that perception from the public health officials could drive more closures.”