A sweeping motion by California’s governor lifting regional stay-home-orders now puts the state back into a four-tier system, with Central Coast counties returning to the most restrictive purple tier.
This week brings more changes in COVID-19 restrictions, with businesses in SLO County pivoting once again towards reopening. Restaurants, gyms and wineries can now resume outdoor services, and hair salons and barbershops can operate indoors again.
“I am delighted by the news,” said Robin Covey, owner of Novo restaurant and co-owner of Luna Red in San Luis Obispo.
Although Covey still can’t offer indoor dining, wait service outdoors will bring back some of his staff who’ve been on unemployment.
“Not completely to the full employment that we have when we are completely open," Covery said. "But it would still benefit them to have a few days or a few shifts of work.”
Covey said it makes a big difference for customers, too, who will no longer have to eat their food in take-out containers on restaurant patios.
“When you’re going out to eat, especially at a nice restaurant, even if it's casual, it’s still nice to drink your coffee out of a real cup and have a real knife to cut your steak on a real plate,” Covey said.
Although the outdoor dining option will help financially, Covey said the purple tier is still very limiting for the restaurant industry.
“I have the two large locations with huge patios," Covey said. "But there are so many restaurants that don’t have outdoor seating. Or maybe they can’t afford a tent, or can’t afford outdoor heaters.”
As financial hardships continue for small businesses, Molly Cano with the city of San Luis Obispo said the 'Buy Local Bonus' program is expanding.
When people spend $100 at a local shop, they receive two separate $20 gift cards in return.
“We are launching our "Buy Local Bonus," bonus," Cano said. "Essentially, the first 100 people to turn in their receipts will receive a second gift card of our choosing.”
Cano said many businesses continue to struggle, even under less restrictive guidelines, and the Buy Local program is just one of several ways the city can help.
“As we are getting news from the governor's office that things are shifting, now is your opportunity to get out there and help those local businesses," Cano said. "Their survival is reliant on our community supporting them now and into the future.”