When Governor Gavin Newsom’s “shelter in place” order went into effect March 19, many local businesses were forced to close down until April 7, when the order is planned to be lifted. Latino businesses in Sonoma County are feeling the impact of the coronavirus in different ways.
The usually busy El Infierno bar in Santa Rosa had to close their operations due to the order. “We are not operating until April 7th, following the orders of the state,” said Marco Martinez, owner of the bar.
Although the bar has a kitchen, he explains that their menu is small and isn’t able to do orders to go. “We are losing business, we can’t sell anything,” he said. “We depend on our sales from our weekends and events.”
The closures are not only affecting his business but his work staff as well. “They are not working right now,” he explained. “There is not much for them to do.”
Martinez stated that he could manage until April 7, but felt uncertain about being able to pay rent if the order is extended. “We don’t know how to stay afloat after three weeks,” he said. “We will need to close unless there is a law telling us we don’t have to pay rent.”
He hopes to find resources as a small business owner to help him recover from the lockdown, but points out that there are barriers in seeking that support as well. “If help is available, there is a process,” he said. “You need to apply and qualify, it takes time.”
He elaborated, “We are waiting to see what will happen, but we are already being impacted.”
Pedro Diaz, owner of El Gallo Negro in Windsor, has already seen a decline in business, “a lot fewer clients,” he said, but is still able to sell food, as an “essential service” establishment.
His business is currently operating with five percent of its staff, and to Diaz, the impact of the coronavirus shutdown goes beyond his business.
“This is something that has a strong impact on the immigrant working community,” he said. “there is no immediate relief for people who live paycheck to paycheck.” He added that this is a community that is still recovering financially from the 2017 Tubbs and 2019 Kincade fires.
Diaz mirrored the statement that even with financial help being available, there are still barriers present for the Latino community. “There’s not enough access to information in Spanish to help small business owners make better decisions.”
He explained. “If there is any kind of financial aid, they are afraid of being identified as immigrants.”
El Gallo Negro is open for take-away orders. Orders can be placed online at www.elgallonegro.net or by phone at 707-838-9511.
Some establishments have seen an increase in customers. “We have seen more business,” said Claudia Olvira, Human Resources Manager at Lola’s Market. “because of the panic buying people have been doing.” The market currently has locations in Napa, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Vallejo.
According to Olvira, the market is working with the health department to make sure their businesses are adhering to the order. “At the moment, we have taken necessary precautions to have clients in the stores,” she said. “We are trying to protect workers and customers as well.”
Lola’s Market will remain open during the shelter-in-place order. They will be open Monday – Sunday from 7 a.m. – 10m p.m. Although their restaurants are closed for sit-down dining, they are open for takeout orders. Customers can call and place an order at 707-571-7579 x 17. Information on their locations can be found on their website.
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