SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo and Councilmember Meagan Harmon hit the streets downtown to meet business owners during what's been called the biggest crisis they and the country have faced in modern times.
Thousands of paychecks, rent payments, mortgages and business futures are at risk citywide and city leaders are sharing the current status and solutions as they know it to the minute.
A citywide order for bars, theaters and restaurants to closed except for to-go food has been followed, from what they have seen. No complaints about violators have come in.
Murillo was armed with a stack of forms for small business low interest loans. It is a process she encouraged business owners to consider immediately during the state of emergency.
"They can take out low interest loans with the small business administration which is a federal agency. We are also trying to get the state and federal governments to give direct grants," said Murillo.
Many are familiar with them because of the area-wide disaster after the Montecito mudflow crisis in January of 2018. Millions of dollars in revenue was lost in in the initial 12 days, and the recovery was a slow process throughout the region.
Murillo says the city is following guidelines from the state and national leaders.
She is hoping other local cities are in line with the same outreach and availability.
The future is uncertain and the timing is an additional challenge based on what's been happening in the area since 2017.
Murillo said, "what we have been working on for the last three years is, getting people to Santa Barbara, getting people on State Street, eat at our restaurants, drink our beer or our vintage wine , and this has come to a screeching halt."
The Cruisery restaurant owner, Aron Ashland, spoke deeply about the financial impacts to his brew and restaurant operation on one of the normally busiest blocks in downtown.
He urged the city to ask landlords for relief plans and a financial break until business comes back; whenever that is.
Pascucci owner Laura Knight was answering calls and filling take-out orders with a 15 percent discount. Many restaurants trying to stay open are in the "to-go" mode.
"Restaurant Connection is great they have been around forever they are on the same platform as Grub Hub. SB Bites is great, they only charge 10 percent of our menu price. They show up right away," said Knight.
She says her landlord, Ray Mahboob, has been compassionate with rent adjustments during her recent relocation to 509 State St. She expects that to continue. He also offers his vacant businesses for "pop-up" sales sites for small retailers.
"I put together a business plan and bought this based on a thousand people walking by a day. What if only a hundred people walk by a day? I can't afford to make beer. I can do a lot of a lot of things I wanted to do. This has changed my business forever," said the owner of The Cruisery Aron Ashland. He also owns the Wine Therapy a couple of blocks away and is seriously concerned about both of them, and his employees.
A retail store said they have multiple small businesses and the city's help is appreciated.
Eva Linowski with the Antique Alley said, "I mean there are 25 family businesses in here. We have a group store."
"I've never seen anything like it. The commitment they have shown to keeping our city healthy and to really standing together arm and arm to get us through this speaks volumes about who we are who are small business owners are. It gives me great hope about how we are going to get through it once this pandemic is over," said Harmon.
For more information about loans click here: Small Business Administration