The County is waking up!
With both the state and the County of San Diego loosening coronavirus stay-at-home orders for businesses, politicians, merchants and residents could sense the local economy stirring from its six week medically-induced coma.
But whether the County will be allowed to begin reopening is a decision that ultimately rests with Governor Gavin Newsom. This fact was acknowledged on Tuesday when the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ask that the County’s chief administrative officer request the governor to provide the County with the autonomy to make region-related, COVID-19 decisions.
In tandem with this vote the Supervisors also adopted the Business Safety Framework, a general outline for local businesses highlighting the things they need to prepare for and do before they could reopen.
The purpose of the framework was for merchants to be ready to reopen when Newsom announces his expected guidance on Thursday, May 7.
Before businesses can reopen, however, they are required to create a Safe Reopening Plan. A template is available now to review, but may be updated depending on direction from the state. The template can be found here:
Businesses will need to complete, print and post the plan at their entrance.
Businesses that will be allowed to reopen beginning Friday, according to the governor’s announcement include bookstores, clothing stores, toy stores, florists and sporting goods.
Third District Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, whose represents Escondido, issued this statement on Tuesday: “San Diego County has been a leader during the pandemic response and is now leading out of this public health crisis. I am thankful for the business and recreation communities that have worked with me over the past 51 days to establish safety plans to demonstrate to the Governor that we are indeed ready to safely open.”
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara, who last week with several North County mayors called for a beginning of loosening of the economy told The Times-Advocate, “At this point, I’m happy there is some movement. As you well know, people are hurting and so the Mayors were looking for some type or relief from the restrictions while conforming to successful preventative measures. I would expect that the Governor is going to offer something like that.”
Escondido business leaders are calling on the authorities to reopen Escondido faster rather than slower. James Rowten, president and CEO of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, told The Times-Advocate: “We feel it is time to open back up Escondido businesses. The latest reported cases of COVID 19 in Escondido stands at 142 confirmed cases. One hundred and forty-two cases for a city of 150,000 plus and no reported deaths from this virus is evidence of the respect that Escondidans have shown for each other in following the restrictions placed on them to help slow the spread of this virus.”
Rowten added, “This has taken a huge toll on our local economy and based on these relatively small numbers is a strong indicator that we must now open back up business and begin to repair the damage caused by this pandemic. This is not New York City where people are stacked on top of each other and with proper caution being implemented the Chamber feels we should be leading the way in San Diego County to opening up businesses in Escondido.”
Alex MacLachlan, president of the Downtown Business Association, told The Times-Advocate: “I think the science and data demanded the loosening of restrictions, but politicians have decided to do it in a piecemeal way.” MacLachlan’s slogan is “Reopen Escondido!”
Working with salon owners
MacLachlan has been working with area salon owners and independent contractors in that industry, which has been one of the hardest hit sectors. He has been working with them on safety protocols “they could implement themselves to keep their colleagues, employees, and customers safe while visiting their businesses and using their services, in order to show the powers that be they can regulate themselves in a responsible manner.”
MacLachlan added, “These are trained professionals who are already educated in cleanliness and sanitation protocols as a prerequisite for obtaining licensing in their industry. This pandemic is a unique situation though so probably not covered adequately by normal protocols. Salons all over the country are now requiring everyone in their salons including customers to wear masks and surgical gloves, they’re creating required distancing between work stations and waiting areas. They’re eliminating shared reading material and drink stations and doing everything possible to mitigate transmission risk as much if not more than most businesses that have been allowed to open this week or have been open the whole time most were shut down. Ironically, most of these salon owners who opened around the country under self-imposed strict new protocols are disobeying a Governor’s orders and are at risk of arrest.”
He continued, “There is no reason these businesses should be wiped out with a forced closure order that Governor Newsom says will now last MONTHS instead of the WEEKS they were told when the hospital and medical field was preparing for the worst in March and April.”
MacLachlan is highly critical of the “slow open” approach, which he said, “I fear is going to cause far more damage to downtown Escondido than the virus ever will. The domino effect of lost sales and income, causing unpaid rent, mortgages, and bills, along with moratoriums that essentially void legal commercial real estate contracts have the potential to send long lasting financial ripple effects from minimum wage employees, to business owners, to suppliers, to landlords, to banks, and to our local government who based part of its annual budget on sales tax collections that have cratered in this shutdown. And that doesn’t even take into account what Sacramento will do to our cities when their pension fund returns come in lower than projected or if they insist on going forward with two property tax increases on the ballot in November.”
The DBA president concluded, “There are a lot of important decisions our elected and un-elected officials need to make, and I suggest they make them sooner rather than later because even if our restaurants, salons, and specialty stores make it through this shutdown, you aren’t going to see the extra debt they’ve accumulated in order to stay in business that for the most part has to be paid back. If we dig too deep of a hole for them to crawl out of, Grand Avenue could start looking like the financial crisis years again with empty stores and For Lease / For Sale signs in the windows. I don’t want to see that again and it’s a scenario I believe is avoidable. I don’t want to see that again on many levels but mostly because any sign like that in a window downtown means one of our friends, one of our downtown family members has been hurt and it doesn’t have to come to that. We can reopen responsibly and we can reopen safely. Reopen Escondido!”
Restaurants are ready
One of the busiest restaurants during the shutdown has been the Sunny Side Kitchen, operated by Bob & Kate Carpenter. They told The Times-Advocate: “ We are very excited to be headed toward guests returning to our dining room. We have already moved out some tables and rearranged furniture to create as much space as possible. We are using every safety measure that has been recommended to us by the authorities in order to keep ourselves and our guest safe.”
The Carpenters think that the take-out and delivery trend won’t be going away anytime soon. So much so that have added DoorDash to their regular delivery company (Esconido-owned and family operated Hungr.com). They commented, “In fact, we believe so much in the future of delivery service that this Thursday we are adding a new delivery-only restaurant to our repertoire. It is called 760 Burgers and will be on the Hungr.com platform. Open Thursday through Saturday from 4 pm to 9 pm, 760 Burgers is a really simple concept. Just a few choices of burgers, and they’re really good. Basically, it’s the kind of burgers your dad used to grill in the back yard. Look for it on Hungr.com.”
The Carpenters concluded, “We are really hoping that all of the Escondido restaurants that had to close will be able to open back up with these new rules. We miss them.”
Louisa Magoon of the Grand Tea Room says she is waiting for the definite OK to reopen, although she’s ready once that word comes. “I’m waiting for information about what will be required when we’re allowed to open,” she said. “Requirements such as how many people will we be able to seat at the same time, how far apart our guests must sit, sanitation procedures, requirements for face masks, gloves, etc. Then we’ll need to know what we have to post and what employee training needs to be done. Once we know what we have to do then we can make plans to reopen.”
Meantime, she’s getting the tea room ready “by organizing, touch up painting, stripping and cleaning the floors, sanitizing, etc. I’m so anxious to reopen. We’re going to do well this week for our take-out orders. Sunday is Mother’s Day and I have quite a few take-out orders for both Saturday and Sunday. Yea!”
Delight of France owner Alberta Agyan is also waiting for the governor to lift the restrictions on restaurants: “We are beyond excited and grateful to contribute to helping our economy by opening,” she said. “We are committed to following sanitation guidelines and the spacing that is needed to keep us all safe. Our staff is trained and excited for this dream day to finally come and have our community back to dine in. We miss everyone! We need to see soft safe openings happen to encourage all and to slowly get to restoring our economy and the hearts of people. We can’t wait to love our customers from a ‘safe distance of course.’ Praying this happens very soon! We are ready!”
A business that has been closed, California Pizza Kitchen located at 200 E. Via Ranch Parkway officially reopens Thursday, May 7. All current menu items – aside from individual CPK Market pantry items – will be available for takeout, curbside, and delivery (while still closed for dine-in). That means traditional menu items such as Appetizers, Power Bowls, Salads, Soups, Pastas, Main Plates, Desserts, and Pizzas.