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Many San Diego business owners fear move to dreaded purple tier

Posted at 5:23 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 20:23:43-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego County officials warn we may officially drop into the dreaded, most restrictive, purple tier next week due to the rising COVID-19 case rate.

“This is not a rollback, this is a devastation,” said Jon Weber, co-owner of Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop in the East Village. “The same metrics that work in smaller counties don’t necessarily work in larger counties.”

Under the state’s purple tier, restaurants would have to close indoor dining and move outside. Right now, in the red tier, they’re allowed to operate inside at 25% capacity.

“We’re on 10th Avenue, we don’t have any space to put any outdoor seating, we’re on a busy street,” said Weber, who got through the first shutdown with PPP money, which is now gone.

“If we close, we may never open again,” he said. “The idea of laying off 50 employees right before the holidays is pretty hard.”

Other restaurants able to operate outside worry rain and cold weather will keep customers from dining outdoors.

“There’s going to be challenges with cold weather, some of this stuff is just out of our control,” said Cesar Vallin, the managing partner at Cloak & Petal. “If you stay open, now you’re opened illegally, now you open yourself up to lawsuits from staff, ABC can come in and take your liquor license.”

Like Weber, Vallin also worries about layoffs when moving from the red to the purple tier.

“It’s not a light switch, I have to lay everybody off properly and then bring people back on, and not everybody comes back,” said Vallin. “There’s no support from the government, they’re still asking us for employment taxes, they’re still asking us for sales taxes; It’s a major letdown.”

Under the red tier, gyms and fitness centers can operate inside at 10% capacity.

Scott Lutwak, the founder and CEO of FIT Athletic Club, said that capacity is already a difficulty at his five locations across the county.

“We’re mortified at the concept of moving into that purple tier, which represents us at zero capacity, being closed 100 percent,” said Lutwak.

“We’ve been conducting classes outside regardless of weather, but now it gets dark earlier,” he said. “In our facilities, we have millions of dollars’ worth of really extensive equipment that can’t be brought outside because as soon as you bring it outside with saltwater air, you can’t bring it back inside.”

He said right now he does not plan on shutting down inside or moving equipment outside.

“As long as I feel like I can provide a safe environment for my employees and safe environment for my members, which we have proven we’re able to do so, I think we have every intention on keeping our doors open until we’re forced to do otherwise.”

Lutwak said he believes his centers are essential, and therefore should be able to remain open.

“We’re providing rehabilitation services, we consider our facilities as essential, and we have sent some letters out to each of the mayors in the cities where we’re conducting business,” he said he has yet to hear back.

Besides restaurants and fitness centers, houses of worship, movie theaters, museums, zoos, and aquariums would also have to end indoor operations.

San Diego County will find out next week if we have officially moved back into the purple tier.