Running a brick-and-mortar business that typically relies on foot traffic became even tougher Monday afternoon, when Gov. Brian Kemp ordered closed all businesses where customers and workers cannot maintain at least six feet between themselves at all times. That came after several metro Atlanta jurisdictions — including the city of Atlanta — in recent days banned in-restaurant dining, gyms, bowling alleys and other businesses to maintain social distancing. And more restrictions could be on the way.
Some of the businesses have already been closing, sending home another wave of Georgia workers to join the growing ranks of the unemployed. Many business owners are waiting for the massive business relief package working its way through Congress and are hoping loans and grants might help or save them — and their workers.
“Customers are afraid to get out, and I don’t blame them,” Thomas said. But he hopes they will find safe ways to shop and support companies and their workers.
Dinesh “Dennis” Desai, co-owner of Midtown Cleaners & Laundry on North Highland Avenue, said that his business has sunk between 70% and 90%.
“I have a reserve for myself,” he said, “but I’m staying open for my employees to collect their salaries.”
Desai plans to cut back on days that his business presses clothes. Or he might suspend the dry-clean operations altogether and keep open the coin-operated laundry business, which is doing OK. He said he gets 20 to 25 calls a day asking whether his coin-op machines are available.
“People are inside with nothing to do but eat snacks. The only thing left to do is the laundry now,” he said.
High-end services are also feeling the pinch.
Eric Teusink, a managing partner at the 11-employee Williams Teusink law firm in Decatur, said the firm’s receipts are slowing even as they try to keep going — courts are largely closed and many government services that are key to their clients’ real estate and other businesses are curtailed.
“We are fully committed to hanging onto every employee we have,” he said. “They are incredibly talented and it’s going to be important for us to keep them as we navigate this.”
The firm is advising clients on what disaster relief help is available, and “we are looking at (government disaster) loans a well,” he said.
Allison McTigue, owner of Allison McTigue Salon in Buckhead, applied for a disaster relief loan and is waiting with a great deal of concern.
She said she spent her cash reserves two months ago moving her hair salon to a new location after being forced out of the old one. When the virus began growing worse, she shut her 13-year-old business down out of concern for her patrons.
“I am in a situation where my whole income has come to a complete stop,” she said. “I am a homeowner. I have a son in college and am on my own financially.”
At the same time, the rent and mortgage are still coming due.
“I don’t know,” the 42-year-old McTigue said. “I was watching the news this morning and trying to figure that out. I am going to have to find something to do, or I will go crazy. I’ve been working since I was 14.”
Maybe, she said, she’ll go to one of the hospitals and cut hair for one group that has more work than they can do and little time to visit a salon: doctors.
Georgia has been declared a economic disaster area, which means federal help is available for businesses.
From the Small Business Administration:
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million to help overcome temporary loss of revenues.
The loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of coronavirus impact.
The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits.
Long-term repayments up to a maximum of 30 years are possible.
Pete Corson contributed to this report