Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 7

Struggling Businesses During the Shelter-in-Place

Graphic by Christy Knudson

Everyone has been quite unsure of how to adjust to this new way of living since the shelter-in-place enforcement to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Since this is such a new and widespread change, adaptations are constantly having to be made as updates are coming out daily. One thing that must make dramatic adjustments, otherwise they face potential permanent consequences, is local businesses. 

Even a decent business can quickly go out of business if they have a bad month. With everyone having to stay home for most activities, the upcoming few weeks could be detrimental to struggling businesses here in Walnut Creek. For restaurants, only takeout, delivery, and curbside services are being offered. Without dine-in services, there’s no work for bussers to clear tables, and since the only dishes in need of cleaning are cooking implements, there is much less need for dishwashers. “Our sales are much lower than usual,” said Clay Walker, President of Gott’s Roadside, which has been a major donor to the Walnut Creek Education Foundation. “The closure of public schools has also been challenging because many of our employees are no longer available to work because they need to stay home with their children.” Though big-brand chain companies will definitely survive, the workers are at a much higher risk of losing their job. To avoid this, Gott’s Roadside has dedicated 100% of their sales to employee wages. “Unfortunately at this location we cannot afford to keep our staff members employed. We have 32 staff members [and] we have laid off every one of them except for five,” said Rolla Ghaben, the owner of the downtown Walnut Creek Mels Diner. “it will be extremely difficult when the shelter in place gets removed and to go back to business as usual.”

Businesses are trying to respond to the shelter-in-place with ways to stay afloat in this new environment. The most common response is to provide a curbside service, in which goods are delivered to the customer outside of the building. This is being offered by not only restaurants, but also many stores, including Flying Colors Comics. Sunrise Bistro is taking a different approach to the virus. They’re currently taking donations used to make food and deliver it to local doctors, paramedics, police officers, and firefighters. 

Despite the undeniable hit businesses are expecting, there are still things we can do to help struggling businesses while we shelter-in-place. We can obviously make use of takeout and curbside services, but we can also tip generously. A lesser-known but still effective way of supporting struggling businesses is to purchase gift cards online so that they get the money now. Though the Governor has ordered some businesses to just close, there is a list available on the Walnut Creek City website of open businesses. “As time goes on, there will be more creative ideas about how to adapt to the new normal,” said Mayor Loella Haskew of Walnut Creek. “Those businesses have had a lot to do with allowing Walnut Creek to have the awesome quality of life we enjoy.  We must do what we can to make sure that our infrastructure and local economy survive after all the shelter-in-place orders are released.”