Vacant storefronts are not an uncommon sight in Downtown San Luis Obispo right now.
Business has been brutal for many downtown stores during the pandemic, forcing several to relocate and even close down altogether.
At least 12 businesses have closed since March throughout the downtown region, many due to COVID-19, but not all.
Some stores like Charles Shoes have been vacant for months.
Downtown SLO CEO Bettina Swigger says the number of vacancies is not much different from last year, but some businesses that have closed leave a larger footprint.
Well-known stores like Beverly's and California Pizza Kitchen said goodbye to the Downtown SLO community this year, leaving behind memories for Central Coast locals.
“It was easy, but it was also a nice restaurant and it was so sad to see that it went out of business because the rent got too high," San Luis Obispo resident Serafina Madonna said.
Some residents feel these closures are just the tip of the iceberg and anticipate more to come.
“It’s actually breaking my heart to see a lot of the hard-earned businesses that have been working so hard, 20 years, 30 years in business and now they’re shutting their doors, in particular the small mom and pop businesses," Shell Beach resident David Fuentes said.
Many locals say they hope to see more restaurants stay, than new ones come in. That's not stopping those ambitious to begin business downtown.
“I wasn’t going to let a pandemic get in my way. Basically, the plans were already in the works looking for spots in March," Monika Tumbrello said.
Monika's Macarons is set to open its doors along Broad Street this month.
Their next-door business, Sidecar, is also seeing a change, moving locations prior to the pandemic.
“Quite frankly, if we had been at the old location, I don’t know if we’d survive at this point because there wouldn’t have been much room for any outdoor dining," Sidecar owner Josh Christensen said.
Downtown SLO says they are doing what they can to help businesses during the pandemic and are providing them with the most timely information on changes to their business.
Since March, they've also been holding weekly membership calls via Zoom with businesses to connect them with federal and state municipal-level funding and resources that become available to them.