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Central Coast business owners decry—or defy—coming shutdowns

Business owners in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are reacting to the possibility of another stay-at-home order. While some are once again adjusting, others are fighting back.Among the businesses that will be hardest hit by California's new public health order are restaurants, which will once have to close outdoor dining, only allowed to offer take-out or delivery. 

“I kind-of saw the writing on the wall, honestly, with all the cases going up in our area,” said Brett Collins, owner of Sidewalk Cafe in Arroyo Grande, where customers this week were dining outside on the sidewalk.

Collins said he was preparing for another lockdown. 

“We have our online ordering system set up," Collins said. "So people can go online and order directly to have it picked up in the cafe or curbside.”

Brian Appiano of RibLine in Grover Beach is also upping his take-out presence, and offering free delivery for people in the Five Cities area. He encourages people to call restaurants directly instead of ordering through apps such as DoorDash and Uber Eats.

“Those companies charge anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of the revenues," Appiano said. "It’s great to have the business, but in the long run it really doesn’t help [the bottom line] because our profit margins are so thin.”

Others say the restrictions are too onerous and will cause too many small businesses to close for good. John Kabateck, with the National Federation of Independent Business, said small retail establishments should be able to fully reopen with safety guidelines in place. 

“We recognize 20 percent is better than zero percent when it comes to customers walking through the door," Kabateck sid. "But we really need to see that 80 percent come through, especially as the holiday season is upon us.”

A small business owner from Lompoc, Rich Smith, agrees that businesses could stay open safely. He started a Facebook group called “Boycott Covid Lockdowns and Closures” in reaction to the potential new shutdown. It now has 100-plus members and growing. 

“I want small businesses everywhere to band together and say ‘no, we are not going to close.’ We are going to be safe, we are going to do the same thing that is allowed at Walmart and Costco," Smith said. "But we are not closing, because our livelihoods are at stake.”

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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