SCV businesses, church leaders react to reclosures

Olive Terrace is one of many restaurants adapting to new health regulations mandating outdoor dining and social distancing. July 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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When businesses and churches in the Santa Clarita Valley were given the green light to reopen, they never expected to be ordered to shut again, mere weeks later.

“Honestly, it’s really a big hit for all of us financially,” said Alex Montealegre, a barber at Mane Cave Barbershop. “We had to go into our savings during the whole time, and now it’s taking us back to that.” 

The barbershop had been following all the Public Health guidelines and is unsure why they were told to close again. 

“In our opinion, it didn’t seem like barbershops had any cases coming out of them,” Montealegre added. “We’re being pretty safe, so … it’s pretty unfair.” 

Customers only had a short time to get their haircuts in before the closure, and expressed their frustrations to the barbershop.

Gymnastics Unlimited is one of many business that has closed again after briefly reopening following an easing of COVID-19 restrictions. July 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

While Mane Cave had been open for a month, Gymnastics Unlimited had been open only a week, leaving co-owner Lisa Eichman feeling like a “ping-pong ball.”

“This business has been open here for 45 years, and this is the first time we’ve ever closed,” Eichman said. “It’s very tough.”

For Eichman, it’s been the changes to the health orders that have been the most frustrating, as they’ve given businesses no time to prepare.  

“It’s impossible for us to run a business that was profitable before all this happened, when every day they change the rules,” she added. 

And while Eichman’s business received funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration, it’s not enough to sustain it through long-term closures, and she said she hopes to see more support for small businesses as closures continue.

“I called SBA this morning, they are not giving any more money,” she said. “They need to come up with a reality. They can’t just shut businesses down and have the entire state of California go under.”

Few cars are parked in the lower parking lot at Westfield Valencia as many businesses that have re-opened following COVID19 shutdowns have closed again. July 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

David Hegg, senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church, echoed Eichman’s sentiments, adding that while much is left unknown about COVID-19, small businesses continue to struggle.

“I’d hate to be the governor. I think he’s trying to do what he thinks is right, but I think nobody has the right information. We don’t know how this virus has spread,” Hegg said. “So the hardest thing we have to do here is submit and honor our government, even though we don’t know what their motives are. … And six months from now, we’re gonna look back and go, ‘Was that necessary?’ I think that’s the big question. Maybe it is necessary, but who gets to decide?”

As a pastor, Hegg questions how far the government’s oversight in designing services must reach, and though he says the congregation plans to do everything they can within the law and regulations, he will continue to advocate for the congregation to local and state officials. 

“As Christ followers, we’re going to follow the law,” Hegg added. “That doesn’t mean that we can’t speak out when we think that things are done in a way that could be done a lot better.” 

Valencia Christian Center had been reopened for only a couple of weeks, and Senior Pastor Swanzi Saunders says they will now be returning to online services.

“For us, the bottom line is the safety and health and wholeness of everybody,” Saunders said. “Now, needless to say, we don’t necessarily want to have to close in-person services again, but if that means keeping everybody healthy and safe, then that’s what we need to do since that’s our priority.” 

Valencia Christian Center Senior Pastor Swanzi Saunders holds a live-streamed church service. Courtesy of Terry Collier

Though Saunders says they look forward to a time when they can return to in-person services again, she believes they can still be together virtually. 

“As long as we’re looking after and taking care of one another and doing life together in other ways, then that’s what we’re supposed to do, that’s what we’ve been called to do, and what we will continue to do,” she added. 

While restaurants statewide were ordered to halt dine-in operations Monday, here in L.A. County, that happened two weeks ago.

Linda Mendoza, general manager at Rustic Burger House, had just begun the hiring process for Rustic Burger’s second location in Newhall, which had been set to open in late May, when COVID-19 hit. Now, she says she’s not sure when that’s happening.

“I know that this has affected the morale of the employees because we were getting back into gear, and it just feels like we’re regressing and going in reverse right now,” Mendoza said. 

Olive Terrace is one of many restaurants adapting to new health regulations mandating outdoor dining and social distancing. July 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Even so, many restaurants agree that it’s been their outside patios, which have been allowed to remain open, that have kept them afloat.

“The silver lining is that we do have a big patio, (but) the thing that’s unfortunate right now is that it’s extremely hot, so that has affected our business,” Mendoza said. 

Sunny Javapour, general manager at Olive Terrace Bar and Grill, echoed Mendoza’s sentiments, adding, “We’ve tried to add umbrellas and cooling fans, but during lunchtime, it’s still too hot to sit outside.”

Even with a combination of takeout and delivery, which Javapour says is also hit or miss, Olive Terrace isn’t bringing in close to what it used to.

“We’re hoping to reopen soon, but the way it’s going I doubt it,” she added. “As of now, I guess we’re happy with what we can get, and at least we can keep the doors open with the patio and deliveries.” 

Valencia Christian Center Senior Pastor Swanzi Saunders holds a live-streamed church service. Courtesy of Terry Collier

Olive Terrace is one of many restaurants adapting to new health regulations mandating outdoor dining and social distancing. July 14, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

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