Local businesses adjust to new restrictions
By Wesley Gardner
Small businesses around the area are already feeling the sting of recent restrictions implemented to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued the most stringent restrictions yet imposed in Caldwell County, ordering the temporary closing of schools, restaurants, gyms and bars and restricting gatherings of more than 10 people throughout Texas through at least April 3.
The limitation on the size of gatherings extends to commercial establishments, including retail, wholesale, industrial, service, eating and entertainment, though employees of these establishments are not counted as part of the gathering.
These restrictions do not extend to grocery stores, though many throughout the state have begun to limit the number of customers allowed in at one time at their own discretion. The HEB in Lockhart, for example, is limiting the amount of customers allowed in at once to 75.
While dining-in at restaurants and bars is now banned, Abbott encouraged residents to continue ordering food locally for pick up or delivery, noting people could still order beer, wine and mixed drinks as long as they order food.
Many restaurants throughout Lockhart have adjusted to provide pick up and delivery options, though some have temporarily closed down all operations, including Henry’s, Market Street Café, Casa Jalisco, Carla’s Basket and Pho Hong.
(Editor’s note: visit www. post-register.com/local-takeout-drive-thru-and-delivery-services-around-lockhart for a list of all the restaurants still in operation and services provided)
Additional businesses around the city, like Bluebonnet Records and Made for Walkin’ boutique, have also temporarily closed down office operations. Many that have remained open have already felt the financial impact resulting from the public gathering restrictions.
Lockhart City Councilmember Brad Westmoreland, who also owns Westy’s Pharmacy on the square, said he’s losing upward of $250 a day in sales that would have generally resulted from normal foot traffic.
“All the businesses around the square rely on the foot traffic,” said Westmoreland. “You have to have [foot traffic] in order to meet your obligations when you know in the past that has helped meet those obligations.”
Westmoreland added that he hoped people would remain as calm as possible as the entire nation tries to adjust to the unprecedented situation.
“This is probably the most difficult time anyone in this generation has ever faced,” said Westmoreland. “People need to try as much as they can to avoid a panic mode.
“We as a city need to be respectable to one another, whatever we’re doing.”
Printing Solutions – a local business operating out of Lockhart and Austin that provides printing services ranging from business cards to flyers, menus, banners, signs and more – has lost nearly half its business not related to the shipping services it also provides, according to owner Ron Faulstich.
“Our business is based on everybody else’s business, so that’s what hurts me,” said Faulstich. “With all the bars and restaurants closing down, it closes me down.
“It’s a vicious cycle and I’m on the end of it.”
Faulstich said that while the shipping and delivery services side of his company is still going strong, he might have to stay at home and stop paying himself so he can continue to pay his employees.
“We’re doing the best we can to make it work,” said Faulstich. “We’re just trying to make it through.”
According to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-35), recently passed legislation in Congress provides some relief for struggling small businesses and a more comprehensive economic stimulus package could be ready for the president’s signature by the end of the week.
Through the bill, small businesses throughout the state are now eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
“Like action following a hurricane or other natural disaster, this declaration affords access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program’s long-term 3.75% loans to qualifying businesses,” said Doggett. “These loans offer up to $2 million in assistance to help overcome the sudden, temporary loss of revenue.”
Doggett noted businesses applying for loans tare typically required to show why they’d need the loan in order to stay afloat, that they don’t have access to other good sources of funding and that the entirety of the loan is going into the business.
Once a business submits an application, Doggett said approval timelines depend on volume. “While approval normally takes 2-3 weeks and disbursement another five days, I expect the SBA to be flooded with applications,” said Doggett. “This could mean longer than usual wait times to reach loan officers and small business advisors.”
While the legislation already passed in Washington doesn’t provide funding opportunities to counties and cities, Doggett said the current aid package introduced in the House of Representatives did.
“One of the real sticking points between getting House and Senate agreement is that there’s been objection in the Senate in including in this bill more assistance for local governments, and I think we really need that,” said Doggett. “They have very costly problems too, particularly if employees get sick.”
Doggett said he believed the finalized bill would also include direct payment to individuals in at least some capacity, though the final dollar amount and any potential stipulations have not yet been ironed out by members of Congress.
Texas small businesses that believe they may be eligible for an SBA disaster loan can visit www.sba.gov/disaster and apply online.