Local chambers offering support, guidance for small business owners

Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-22 18:50:27-04

The coronavirus has impacted hundreds, if not thousands of businesses across the Central Coast. As more businesses are being forced to shut their doors, local Chambers of Commerce are calling on community members for support of local business.

"I would say the first businesses that were hit the hardest were any businesses related to events," said Jocelyn Brennan, President and CEO of South County Chambers of Commerce.

Some of these venues include the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, The Great American Melodrama, and the vendors who part of the wedding industry. She says local hotels were immediately impacted and soon followed most hospitality businesses, including wineries, bars and breweries, and now restaurants.

"Gift cards are extremely important because that's actual cash coming in and that also shows consumer confidence that they will be there and re-open and can use that gift card at a later date," Brennan said. "So we're really encouraging people to purchase gift cards at the local businesses."

Brennan says free webinars are being provided to the public to help businesses navigate the impacts of COVID-19.

"We'll do ones every Wednesday at 11 to address the concerns of the business community," Brennan said,

A Facebook page for South County Eats and Drinks has also been established to help businesses that are part of the service industry.

Jim Dantona, the President and CEO of San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, says several event cancellations are also having lasting impacts, but there is a way community members can help.

"One of the things that we saw is our nonprofit members had to cancel a bunch of their events and a lot of people bought tickets to those events, and instead of asking for a refund of that, count it as a donation to those nonprofit members," Dantona said.

Dantona also encourages community members to support local businesses that have shifted their operations to strictly take-out.

"That's helping them survive and they're going to be operating at a reduced level and that's going to be hard, but that's how we're going to get them through it," Dantona said.

Dantona says the next step is securing emergency government funding that can be used for business owners.

"Overall, it will hurt us all if we don't support our local businesses."