For a brief moment this summer, it looked like small businesses could take a break from the relentless onslaught of the pandemic.
More Americans, many of them vaccinated, have flocked to restaurants and stores without needing to mask themselves or socially distance themselves.
But then there was an increase in cases due to the Delta variant, a push for vaccine warrants and a reluctant return to more COVID-19 precautions. Now, small business owners are trying to find a balance between staying safe and becoming completely open again.
For them, navigating the ever-changing reality of coronavirus comes with risks ranging from financial hardship and the possibility of offending customers to tense workers, challenges that could intensify as outside alternatives become limited in the future. winter.
“Just a few weeks ago, small business owners were hoping that a return to normalcy would help jumpstart our recovery,” said Jessica Johnson-Cope, owner of the Johnson Security Bureau in New York and president of Goldman Sachs 10. 000 Small Businesses Voices National Leadership Council.
New York City ordered a vaccine warrant for customers in August. For Dan Rowe, CEO of Fransmart, which runs the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, the tenure has been a financial burden and a headache. Brooklyn Dumpling Shop opened in May and has six employees. Its format adapted to pandemics is contactless and automated.
“It was designed to be a restaurant with fewer employees,” Rowe said.
Glass separates the kitchen and staff from customers, who order food from an app. When the kitchen finished preparing the food, it placed an automatic style window, so workers would not come into contact with customers.
“We designed this great, low-labor restaurant, and the government is pushing us back,” Rowe said.
He said he had to hire another staff member to check the vaccination cards at the door, increasing his overhead costs. His complaint is that retail stores and grocery stores offering prepared foods like Whole Foods don’t face the same restrictions.
“What is happening is not fair and it is not practical,” he said.
Suzanne Lucey has owned a Page 158 Books bookstore in Wake Forest, North Carolina, for six years. When the pandemic started, she closed the store for three months. Page 158 Books reopened in July and gradually increased store capacity from five to twelve, in accordance with state guidelines. The capacity limits were lifted before the holidays last year.
When the number of cases began to climb this summer, Lucey’s zip code became the third highest in the state for COVID9 cases. They have a sign in the window that says a mask is required inside the store, but, with no state or city rules to back them up, they don’t enforce it.
Lucey said about one or two people a month broke the rule.
“You don’t want to turn people away, but I want my staff to feel safe,” Lucey said, especially since two of her employees have health issues that make them more vulnerable. “I don’t want my staff to feel pressured to be combative. This is how we run things.
Allison Glasgow, director of operations for McNally Jackson bookstores in New York City, said her stores were following state and city restrictions. One store has a cafe, which must follow New York City’s mandate for customers to be vaccinated. Bookstores also require proof of vaccination at events. Otherwise, masks are optional, although recommended, if clients and staff are vaccinated.
“You can appear hostile when trying to monitor people’s immunization status,” Glasgow said. “It’s not ‘Hey, welcome, it’s what you’ve always wanted to do – it’s kind of a roadblock over there.”
Jennifer Williams, founder and CEO of closet organization company Saint Louis Closet Co., said the company initially rushed to implement a COVID plan, including masking and increased disinfection.
“We don’t have the option to ‘work from home’,” Williams said. “Our business takes place in our manufacturing facility and at our customers’ homes, so we had to adapt quickly to the onset of the pandemic with COVID precautions.”
It dropped the mask requirement on July 1, after all of its employees were fully immunized, the number of coronavirus cases declined and the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed. But it was short-lived.
In early August, with Missouri being one of the three worst coronavirus case states, Williams brought back the mask’s warrant. Its employees can spend up to eight hours a day in a mask installing closet organization systems at a customer’s home.
“The mental drain from the employees has been extreme,” said Williams.