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Park 101
Restaurants such as Park 101 and the Daily News Café in Carlsbad Village are offering curbside pickup due to the coronavirus outbreak. Other small businesses are struggling to stay open or have closed until stay-at-home orders are lifted. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Small businesses react to coronavirus fallout, adjust practices

REGION — Small businesses are struggling, but some are hanging on as the country has been paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Carlsbad, dozens of restaurants are using online and phone ordering for curbside pickup, although other shops or sole proprietors have been forced to shut down for the next several weeks.

In Carlsbad Village, the once-busy area has become a shell of its past, as restaurants are going online and a number of retailers have closed their doors because of a lack of business.

Tony Tata, assistant general manager at Park 101, said the speed of decisions from the county and state levels forced them to change quickly. The once staff of 30 is now just five, but their own aggressive marketing, along with the Carlsbad Village Association, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and others, has helped the business to continue.

“Our main concern was our staff … and our staff depends on that income,” Tata said. “We do have people on board just for the curbside. That’s been helping a little bit. A lot of local people are aware.”

The two business organizations, plus the city of Carlsbad, also provided additional resources for local businesses on March 17, including information on disaster loan assistance programs.

Megan MacIntyre owns four retail stores in the Village (Blue and Shoes, Ragz Revolution, Coolest Shoes in California and Flourish) and one in Temecula (Under the Willow).

Due to the outbreak, she’s been forced to shutter all her shops. She said her Temecula store saw a 90 percent drop in business in one day, while the Carlsbad stores dropped 15 percent to 20 percent over one week. This cemented her decision to close for the next several weeks.

Carlsbad Village
State Street in Carlsbad is lined with empty retail and restaurants, although many restaurants are offering curbside pickup due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Steve Puterski

It’s been tough on her employees, some of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, although she is looking at business loans from her bank or through the Small Business Administration.

The problem with the SBA loan, she said, is it can take up to 45 days to get approved and the funds, which is too long, especially for her employees.

“We were fighting a losing battle by staying open,” MacIntyre said. “We were following all the guidelines. It got to the point … where there was no point in being open because nobody was coming in.”

Scott McBride, a sole proprietor who owns Brilliant Event Lighting, said he also had to shut down his events-based company. He had 29 events scheduled during an eight-week period, but those have been canceled, many of which are weddings. He said the events industry has been crushed as conventions, weddings and others are no longer feasible due to restrictions on large gatherings.

“I was at an event and it felt like the Titanic going down,” he said. “I feel bad for those employees. There were events canceling before this (state and federal orders) all started.”

And while some are struggling, others have been able to pivot. Vista-based Misadventure & Company, a vodka distillery, has switched all production to hand sanitizer in bottles ranging from 2 ounces to 8 ounces, according to a press release from the company.

Orders will be online-only as the distillery is closed to protect the public and employees from spreading the virus.

The company shifted its entire production facility to make a hand sanitizer based on the federal guidelines put in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB), according to Misadventure’s website.

“Our small company has made large strides to get this product out as fast as we could to serve the public need and stem the spread of this virus,” the announcement reads. “Our prices are based on comparable products that are normally available through large retailers such as Amazon. We are shipping now — not in May as other online retailers are — and proceeds will be used so our small company can ensure that we can continue to purchase the ingredients necessary to produce on a large scale and pay our reduced staff for their hard work.”

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