BizHawk is published weekly, and includes items of interest to the business community. Share your business news, including employee announcements and personnel moves, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amid the chaos of a state-ordered lockdown related to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses on Thursday were fighting to survive and to salvage what’s left of their revenue streams.
The order to shut down businesses and confine restaurants to take-out-only has devastated the economy and left a wake of instant employment casualties. Many owners are slashing and furloughing staff because they have lost most of their income.
Santa Barbara, which is highly dependent on the restaurant, retail and food industries, is at ground zero for economic impacts. The businesses on Coast Village Road and State Street and in the Funk Zone are experiencing an Armageddon-esque shock that has rattled the community far worse than the 1925 earthquake, the 1969 oil spill, or the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow.
State Street on Thursday resembled a ghost town, with scattered tourists wandering the streets with few places to go. Parking was plentiful in the Funk Zone, with several wineries, brewhouses and restaurants closed.
“We know that there is still a great demand for the delicious food produced by our amazing food tenants,” said Jennifer Zacharias, public relations specialist for the market.
People can order from the tenants at the Public Market from noon to 3 p.m and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily by downloading the Restaurant Connection app.
Stephen Goularte, general manager at The Garden inside the market, is managing the delivery and pickup station. A steady stream of customers utilized the service Thursday night, and Goularte said the market has been buzzing with activity all day.
Others are also getting creative.
People can rent a room just for dinner and drinks for up to four people. Hotel rates for people who stay the night are also discounted.
Take-out meals are also available at the lobby front desk or curbside pickup. Home delivery is available via Restaurant Connection or Grubhub.
The owners of Los Agaves, Santo Mexcal and Flor De Maiz have closed their doors during this period, but the Milpas, De la Vina and Goleta Los Agaves locations will offer to-go, curbside service and delivery service only, with a 15 percent discount on all orders. They are also offering free delivery service in Santa Barbara and Goleta.
Not all businesses have been able to transition to curbside, take-out or delivery.
“The health and safety of our teams, our guests, our businesses and our community are our absolute highest priority,” Villanueva said in a statement. “In light of government mandates and the scientific evidence we now know about the threat and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close our restaurants until we believe it is safe to reopen. We hope these actions will have a positive impact on reducing the spread of coronavirus in our beloved community as we all face this challenging situation together.”
The community has responded.
Acme Hospitality has raised more than $14,000 — in a single day — through a GoFundMe campaign.
“Many restaurant employees live paycheck to paycheck and are among the most vulnerable members of our community,” according to the GoFundMe statement. “The temporary closure of our eight Santa Barbara restaurants put 350 dedicated employees on furlough, which has been devastating. With sales dwindling rapidly and restrictions imposed on gathering at restaurants, it was impossible for our restaurants to remain open and survive.”
The fundraising is intended to cover three “critical areas of immediate need,” which include the continuation of medical benefits, food supplies and small emergency grants to cover living expenses.
The company is currently covering those costs internally, but the resources will run out soon. All of the money raised through the campaign will fund the employee assistance programs.
“We are in the business of creating community through food, and never has there been a time where that is needed more,” according to the statement.