New reopening guidelines met with criticism from some small business owners

Posted at 5:25 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 20:26:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)—A group of small business owners and employees in San Diego County say the new reopening guidelines released by California Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday won’t help them recover after months of struggling.

“We were really hopeful, then once we actually got this new color-coding system, it’s the same as nothing really to a lot of small businesses,” said Angie Weber, co-owner of Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop in the East Village. “25 percent for a lot of restaurants is not enough to operate with.”

Under the latest guidelines, restaurants can offer dine-in service at 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

“We’ve done the math and think we can have 55 people in our building at any given time,” she said.
Weber could not provide outdoor dining and spent a lot of money to prepare her restaurant for safe, dine-in services.

“We went above and beyond. We added UV germicidal lighting into our HVAC ducts; we’ve gone to touchless checks and menus, we added glass partitions between our tables,” she said.

A group of business owners, general managers, and other employees joined San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond outside of the county administration building Monday to call for looser restrictions.

Desmond has been pushing for the reopening of businesses and said they can’t survive with the current capacity limits.

“Everybody behind me is suffering because of this. I can’t pay my rent with 25 percent,” said Thomas Hall, General Manager for The Grass Skirt. “When my staff was told they had to leave and I didn’t know when we were going to hire them back, it completely broke my heart.”

While some say the capacity limitations make it difficult for businesses to recover after operating at a loss, others say their industries have been entirely left out of any reopening plans.

“I own a small event business called McFarlane Promotions. We shut down all our business and events on March 15,” said Laurel McFarlane, a small business owner and the founder of San Diego Event Coalition.

“We let go of staff, we took out a second mortgage on our house, borrowed from friends and families if we could. We scrambled to make financially for the last six months, only to find out last Friday that we have been completely disregarded and undermined. The event industry wasn’t even listed.”

McFarlane said she’s a mother of four children and the sole provider for her family. She said 90 percent of her business events were canceled, and she’s been unable to work for nearly six months.

“It’s time for our leaders to invite us to the table,” she said.

While Desmond has been in favor of reopening businesses, others are concerned that this could cause another spike in COVID-19 cases across the county.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a Tweet, “My fear is that the breadth & speed of what we are doing could cause a spike in cases that would trigger us moving back to a higher tier and requiring additional closures. I would prefer a more cautious approach that gives us a higher probability of a smooth & steady recovery.”

Businesses providing indoor services must have a sign-in sheet will customers will leave their name and phone number. Supervisor Fletcher said if there is an outbreak inside a business or entity, the list will help in notifying customers if they have been exposed to COVID-19.

The county’s public health order will be updated to reflect the change.