‘I don’t know if we can recover from this’: Business owners react to California’s new stay-at-home order

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With new state-mandated restrictions on businesses expected to take effect over the weekend, business owners are again grappling with closures that they fear they won’t be able to survive.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order is triggered when a region’s ICU hospital bed capacity drops below 15% — a threshold that Southern California passed Friday amid an alarming, unprecedented COVID-19 surge.

The new order closes in-person dining, playgrounds and recreational facilities, hair salons and barbershops, museums, zoos, aquariums, movie theaters, wineries, bars, breweries and cardrooms. The restrictions can last at least three weeks.

Los Angeles County had already stopped restaurants from offering in-person dining and began a three-week local stay-at-home order that put stricter occupancy limits on businesses — many of which had expanded onto sidewalks and bought or rented tents and canopies to comply with previous rules.

Sandy Duvall owns several businesses and properties in Sierra Madre, and says she hasn’t received a rent payment in months. 

“We tried to help all of our tenants over the past nine months, which means us not collecting rent,”  she said.

Duvall said her gym, Sierra Fitness, will continue with its operations, since the governor’s new order doesn’t include language for that sector and the business has already brought its exercise equipment outdoors.

“Our industry is completely devastated with all of the shutdowns,” Duvall said. “We understood the indoor activity and masks in there. We’ve complied. But there’s only so many that can hang on — especially the small guys.”

Duvall worries for the restaurants in her communities who again find themselves having to stop in-person dining. 

“We have a very conscientious community, so to see these restaurants — these small mom-and-pop restaurants — have to close again for the third time, I don’t know if we can recover from this this time,” Duvall said.

She’s also concerned about her hair salon, Little Mountain Salon, which has to close once again under the new stay-at-home order after working to stay afloat with the rules that reduced capacity.

“This might be the biggest devastation during COVID that I see from a business standpoint… we’re confused, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s not good,” she said.

William Kefalas, owner of The Only Place in Town in Sierra Madre, says he’s already had to lay off about 75% of his workers at the restaurant during the pandemic.

“We’re trying to stay open for the ones that are still here and trying to be around for the community,” Kefalas said.

Los Angeles County has allocated $170 million in CARES Act funding to restaurants and other small businesses affected by the pandemic, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said this week. “And more financial relief will come,” she added.

Newsom’s office has announced new assistance for people in need of financial support online and additional resources for businesses are available at business.ca.gov/ 

“I’m clear-eyed that this is hard on all of us — especially our small businesses who are struggling to get by. That’s why we leaned in to help our small business owners with new grants and tax relief to help us get through this month,” Newsom said this week.

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