Business owners in Big Bear are demanding to open their doors, saying they desperately need tourism dollars in order to survive. Wednesday morning they banded together to send a message to Gov. Gavin Newsom about his state orders, but they’re receiving pushback from some residents.
In what they called a show of solidarity, business owners gathered to raise a red flag about the pandemic and how they say it’s put them on the brink of financial devastation.
"I think the desperation is setting in for everybody,” Holly Cass, owner of Summit Real Estate Enterprises, said.
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Cass owns a vacation rental management company which relies heavily on tourism, and she organized the business bonding event.
"I think we want our locals mostly to see what we are doing and understand that we need their help. We need our city’s help, county’s help and state’s help, and we have kind of been left out to dry,” she said.
Cass said she and other business owners have gone through meticulous safety measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Our employees would be wearing face masks. We have wash stations, hand sanitizing stations, and we will be sanitizing each boat every time it comes back in, seats, steering wheels," Steve Fengler, owner of Big Bear Marina, said.
Fengler said it's heartbreaking to see his rental boats dry-docked because of state social distancing orders. He is pleading with the governor to ease those orders so he can open his doors.
"If we don't open soon, it's going to be very difficult to crawl out of that hole,” Fengler said.
Some business owners say they are also facing another reopening obstacle -- pushback from year-round residents who don't want tourists to flood the area.
"There are a lot of what we call ‘day trippers’ who have been coming up to the mountain, have not been respecting social distancing or wearing masks,” Mary Shockley, a Big Bear resident, said.
Still, some business owners say the governor is breaking their constitutional rights to make a living, and they may have to break the governor's orders to survive.
"My savings has been going to pay for food so I can keep open and it's to pay my employees to keep me going,” Denise Jayne said. Jayne owns Maggio's Pizza, a spot that’s been around for 35 years.
But she said her restaurant can't survive on take-out alone. Other business owners feel the same.
"We hope to have the blessing of the governor, but we are also ready to go and do what we need to do if that does not happen,” Flagler said.