coronavirus outbreak

Small Businesses Struggle to Stay Afloat as COVID-19 Fears Keep Customers Away

“Usually we’ll have anywhere between 30 and 40 people outside,” one business owner says about the line. Today, there isn’t one. 

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Frantic buying of hand sanitizers and toilet paper triggered by fears of the coronavirus have impacted not only the big box stores, like Costco and Target, but also small businesses, struggling to meet the supply and demand -- or lack thereof. 

Inside LaVillitaCantina, a popular Mexican restaurant in Hollywood normally packed on a Saturday, customers are few. Worry about spreading the coronavirus has kept them away. 

Those empty tables and virtually no customers have left the owner, Greg Morris, forced to cut his staff by more than half. 

“We’ve seen dramatic downturn in business,” Morris says. He’s been a small business owner for more than a decade, and owns the cantina along with two other neighboring businesses, including the Oaks Gourmet Market. He says he’s never seen anything like this.   

“Usually we’ll have anywhere between 30 and 40 people outside,” he says about the line. Today, there isn’t one. 

Morris said he’s “doing whatever CDC regulates for us,” and is taking precautions to help calm customers’ fears, from having workers wear gloves to offering free hand sanitizing wipes.

A normally bustling Calabasas farmers market showed a similar scene Saturday morning. 

There are “a lot less customers and lot less vendors than there normally is,” customer Travis Lockhart said. “We were able to get a ton of stuff, and probably put ourselves more at risk at the grocery store. So we enjoyed our time here.” 

He says the low turnout may have been a combination of the rain and concerns over COVID-19. 

Still, vendors are not taking any chances. They wear gloves and post signs for customers not to touch anything.

“We’re not letting them pack their own eggs, so as to not contaminate other eggs. We’re wearing gloves just to take precaution,” Skarlete Rueles, one of the vendors at the market, says. 

Their egg business is now at an all time high, Rueles says. So much so, that they’re putting a limit on the number of eggs per customer.

Back in the Franklin Village area of Hollywood, Morris says he’s now offering free delivery and even happy hour from the time they open in hopes many in the tight knit community will come together.

“It’s really just about awareness and respecting everybody around you,” he says.

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