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Reopening for business in SLO County amid continued pandemic

Retail, hair salons and in-restaurant dining services are reopening in San Luis Obispo County after weeks of closure, but the pandemic has changed the landscape of business as usual.

[Sound: traffic noise, people talking]

The sounds of busier streets, with shops reopening their doors.

In San Luis Obispo, SLO Swim retail owner Shelley Filip said she was thrilled when she heard Governor Gavin Newsom announce she can turn on her open sign again.

“I was here at the shop and I thought, I’m opening up my door and lets see what happens,” Filip said.

It didn’t take long for a couple shoppers to walk in, and Filip said she’s following the state’s strict guidelines to ensure the safety of customers.

“I’ve been very careful to make sure there are not too many people in the store, so that there will be social distancing,” Filip said.

Filip is also disinfecting hangers after each customer touches something, and she’s supplying hand sanitizer and masks for customers. It’s a little more work than usual, but Filip said she doesn’t mind the new requirements.

“I’m comfortable with it,” Filip said. “If people see me doing that, it makes them more comfortable shopping here.”.

[Sound: hair dryer]

Hair salons and barbershops are also re-opening, but the owner of San Luis Obispo’s BlueBird Hair Salon—Maryah Lilly—says there’s a reason her’s is one of the few salons currently taking customers.

“We didn’t have any heads up on any of the modifications we had to put in place,” Lilly said. “That's why a lot of salons aren’t open because they didn’t know until Tuesday, and they didn’t have enough time to plan. Luckily I thought ahead and purchased things, knowing we would need them later on.”

Lilly says the next visit to a hair salon for customers will look a bit different.

“There are certain extra precautions we have to take,” Lilly said. “Wearing masks, disinfecting shampoo bowls after clients leave, wiping down the stations and disinfecting after each client.”

While this means more work for hairdressers, Lilly says the extra steps are worth making customers feel comfortable.

“I’m confident that my employees can handle it,” Lilly said.

Some restaurants are seating customers again. After weeks of allowing take-out only, Penny Rodriguez, owner of Penny's All American Cafe in Pismo Beach, has customers eating on the patio, but she had to take away tables due to social distancing guidelines.

“It’s a huge, huge obstacle for us owners because we can only make 50 percent of our capacity,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez says employees are required to wear face coverings, and they have to have their temperatures checked daily. While she admits the new measures are a struggle, she says she’s staying positive.

“We are just taking one day at a time, that’s all you can do,” Rodriguez said. “I get up in the morning and say you know what? We’re going to do it, it’s going to be okay.”

Business owners say although it’ll take time to adjust to the new rules prompted by the pandemic, they are open to the changes.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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