COVID-19

Businesses navigate uncertainty around reopening rules

Kristin Schwab May 25, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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As states — and counties — begin reopening at different stages, it can be hard for businesses to know what they can and can't do. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

Businesses navigate uncertainty around reopening rules

Kristin Schwab May 25, 2020
As states — and counties — begin reopening at different stages, it can be hard for businesses to know what they can and can't do. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

When the country started shutting down back in March, the rules for what could stay open were different from state to state. And they were sometimes confusing.

Some states allowed outdoor construction, but not outdoor landscaping. Others deemed golf courses essential businesses. Now as a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen, too.

Like a lot of salons, Bespoke Hair Studio in Washington, D.C., makes money from more than just haircuts and coloring. Samantha Banks is the owner.

“I have a glass door — like a picture window — and you can see my beautiful display of products,” Banks said.

She thought she could possibly do curbside pickup for those products, even though she can’t give haircuts, Banks said. But she never tried to find out. She thinks it’s too early and doesn’t want it look like she’s cutting hair and not following the rules.

Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel at the National Federation of Independent Business, said business owners have been flooding her phone with questions about the rules as different states — and sometimes different counties within those states — operate in different stages.

“It’s kind of all over the place,” Milito said. “The reopening orders inevitably result in relief, excitement, confusion — and then for some business owners — disappointment.”

Kylie North said she experienced all those feelings recently. She and her wife own Water Bear Bar, a cocktail lounge in Boise, Idaho. Stage two of Idaho’s reopening includes in-restaurant dining. She thought since they serve food too, they might count.

“We were quickly were reminded no we don’t [count],” North said.

The business is licensed as a bar. And in Idaho, 40% of sales must come from food to be considered a restaurant. Water Bear clocks in at only 25%.

And though it’s hard for her to watch other businesses on her street open their doors, North said she gets it. Bars are not restaurants. And she wants her bar to be a place where people can mingle, she said.

“So much of going to a bar is being more fluid,” North said. “Like we could meet the right one. They could be just sitting right next to me.”

Or eventually, the “right one” might be sitting six feet away.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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