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Highway 1 road closure impacts businesses in northern San Luis Obispo County

Posted at 10:01 PM, Aug 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-30 19:18:42-04

People are traveling to different parts of the state due to poor air quality caused by hundreds of wildfires.

With the Central Coast being one of the areas least impacted by wildfires, crowds could be seen in Cayucos Saturday, as people escaped the smoke.

“It’s nice, it feels lighter," Central Valley resident Joy Smith said.

“You know you walk outside and your eyes start burning kind of air quality," Brentwood resident Josh Fontes said.

Fontes has faced flames in the Bay Area, as fire season is in full swing, but says this wasn't the first time he's been through a wildfire.

A prior resident of Sonoma, Fontes experienced the Tubbs Fire in 2017, one of the top five deadliest wildfires in the state.

“That was about as crazy as these last round of wildfires," Fontes said comparing his most recent wildfire experience to others in prior years.

“At least for a little while it’s going to happen more often.”

However, some restaurants in Cayucos say the Highway 1 road closure near Big Sur due to the Dolan Fire has impacted their business despite the amount of people hoping to escape from up north.

The Dolan Fire has burned 25,000 acres and is only 20% contained. A road closure on portions of the hignhway began last week and remains closed from Willow Creek Bridge to Pfeifer Burns State Park, according to Caltrans. There is no estimated time of reopening.

Highway 1 is a key route of travel up and down the coast of California. However, areas south of the road's closure are starting to see a slow in sales.

"Going from San Francisco to LA or from LA to San Francisco, that prevents them from stopping here in Cayucos," Luna Coffee Bar Owner and Manager Jessica Fabila said.

The coffee shop says after two months of closure due to the pandemic, now is the time to bring their business back.

“It’s just like one thing on top of another," Fabila said. "2020 is a very hard year."

Despite tourists coming through the region, she says it is not enough.

“I think I can speak for everyone… especially small businesses we are struggling.”

What's ahead brings new worries, as winter is a slowing season for tourists, but Fabila says she is keeping her head high.

“Hopefully fires will calm down soon and we’ll get some rain and hopefully the road can open up soon for the good of everyone," she said.