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Some SLO County businesses prepare for impacts of potentially being added to state's COVID-19 watch list

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Posted at 11:13 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 02:39:35-04

Several industries in San Luis Obispo County are bracing for impacts following the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department warning the county could be put on the state's COVID-19 watch list for failing to meet case rate criteria.

When neighboring counties like Monterey and Santa Barbara were put on the state's watch list, it eventually meant shutting down indoor activities, like eating in restaurants and wine tasting.

SLO County officials say it may be too soon to tell if that directive will be happening here, but some businesses are still preparing.

After several weeks of people sheltering at home, business is rebounding for places like Rosa's Italian Restaurant in Pismo Beach.

"[The county] said you can open, and it was almost like opening for the first time. It was a great feeling," said Owner and Executive Chef, Douglas MacMillan.

But eating inside a restaurant, or tasting wine in a tasting room, could be put on hold again if the county lands on the state's watch list and Governor Newsom decides to issue a similar request to ban indoor activities, like in neighboring Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.

"If the governor does say,'Okay, you can't seat anyone down,' this time around I think we are more prepared," MacMillan said.

MacMillan says they'll likely try to convert their parking lot into an outdoor dining space, and he says the city of Pismo is already working with business owners to allow for the permitting for that to happen.

"We're restaurant people, so we can figure stuff out on the fly. We can make it happen; we're gonna have to make it happen," MacMillan said.

MacMillan says his biggest concern is potential impacts to his employees.

"I really want to make sure I keep them all employed, working. I'm not sure if there's anything else out there for them."

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance says they're confident local wineries can adapt, telling KSBY in a statement:

The PRWCA understands that there is a spike in cases not only here but around the state, which has brought the attention of the State onto San Luis Obispo County. We are confident that our wineries, with the greater majority being small, family owned and operated businesses, can continue to offer safe and responsible tastings that follow State and County guidelines. This includes the ability to offer outdoor, socially distanced seated tastings. Like so many businesses have over the past four months, this community will pivot and do what they can to be safe and responsible.
Joel Peterson, Executive Director of the PRWCA

While customers and visitors are returning to the area, organizations like Visit SLO CAL say a second wave of closures could be devastating.

"If the state does mandate the closure of those few industries that they've identified in this current phase, we could lose many of those businesses in those categories," said Derek Kirk, Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy for Visit SLO CAL.

County health leaders and local business advocates alike are now urging people to do what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"I don't want to wear my mask when I go outside either, but I want to know that I'm not responsible for the closure of small businesses in my community," Kirk said. "I think if we simply just care about our neighbors and care about an industry that employs over twenty-three thousand people and invests over two billion dollars in our economy in a normal year -- we need to take care of them just like they take care of us."

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department is expected to go into further detail about what being on the state's watch list could mean in their weekly press conference Wednesday.