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"This is the week we were planning on spring break." Beach, businesses, streets empty in Pismo Beach amid shelter-at-home order

Posted at 10:23 AM, Apr 02, 2020

A new season can mean a fresh start, but for the first time for Pismo Beach businesses, the absence of spring breakers is making the popular coastal destination look more like a ghost town.

"This is the week we were planning on spring break, and you know, it's very surreal," Mark Eads, general manager of SeaVenture Beach Hotel and Restaurant, said Wednesday.

Since Governor Newsom issued the shelter-at-home order for Californians and the temporary closure of businesses deemed non-essential, businesses like the ones in Pismo Beach are struggling.

Instead of a bustling beach scene, a classic American beach city is riddled with reminders that the pier is closed, and beach days with friends will have to be postponed until further notice.

Eads says many of the employees at SeaVenture have been furloughed but some have also been laid off. Right now, the hotel is operating with a skeletong crew of about 10 people, which is down from the 30-40 employees who would normally be working.

"We have fantastic employees and staff members and not seeing them has been difficult and we're just as anxious to get back to normal as everyone is," Eads said.

Just up the street, Surfside Donuts remains open for business but has seen a major dip in sales and a change in customer interaction.

"One person in at a time, I made some chalk art outside to space people every six feet and it's going really well," Carrie Van Zandt, owner of Surfside Donuts, said.

Van Zandt says her business is also doing phone orders and allowing customers to pick-up their orders curbside.

Pismo Beach Mayor Ed Waage says congressional funding is being offered to theses local businesses while they try to make ends meet.

"I believe it's a loan that can be forgiven if local businesses hire their employees back," Waage said. "I think the whole point is to put people back to work."

He credits the city having for having a strong emergency services program and reserves. He says his staff has been prepared for something like this, they just didn't think it would be a pandemic.

Waage also said Pismo Beach City Council members unanimously voted to extend the deadline local hotels have to pay their transient occupancy taxes, helping hotels like SeaVenture.

"The city council has allowed us to delay our TOT payments until July and August and that's really helpful in the short term," Eads said.

However, despite the hardship this beach community is facing, optimism remains.

"The bottom line is that we have to stay positive, we will get through this," Eads said.

When this all over, and businesses can operate as normal, Van Zandt says the city will be ready.

"We're gonna come out running," Van Zandt said.

She says sales are about 1/5 of what they would normally be this time of the year, and while that carries a tremendous financial burden, she says the love she has seen from the community has been overwhelming.

"To feel the love the locals give is pretty amazing.," Van Zandt said. "I find myself crying often at how good it feels."