Davis businesses struggling, as shown in Davis Chamber of Commerce survey

Davis businesses struggling, as shown in Davis Chamber of Commerce survey

Photo Credits: KATHERINE FRANKS / AGGIE

Over half of Davis businesses surveyed report significant loss of income during shelter-in-place

Results from a survey conducted by the Davis Chamber of Commerce show the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound negative impact on Davis business. Over half of Davis businesses that form the Chamber’s membership have reported “severe” loss of income and 14% report shuttering completely. 

The Chamber surveyed its 124 local business members in early May and sent out the results in a press release to the Davis Enterprise and the Davis Vanguard. The Chamber asked businesses about the financial and operational impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shelter-in-place order.  

Seventy-five percent of businesses said they had experienced a loss of income and half saw that reduction as “severe;” 18% said most or all of their staff had been placed on leave or laid off and 26% reported some layoffs and reduction to staff hours, according to the Vanguard. 

Thirty-seven percent of businesses reported that they had moved part of their operations online or introduced delivery options to continue operations, and 70% reported that they had applied for some kind of financial assistance, either from federal, state or local entities, according to the Vanguard. 

The survey also asked participants what further actions the Chamber and local and state officials could do to help Davis businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. Respondents requested outreach to community members — providing information on which businesses remain open — and outreach to members of the business community on best practices related to conducting operations during the pandemic, the Vanguard reported.  

“The most urgent request from businesses was to receive clear guidance on how to operate safely within current and emerging conditions,” the chamber reported, according to the Vanguard. “In the challenging days ahead, the Davis Chamber of Commerce will work tirelessly in partnership with our colleagues at the city of Davis, Yolo County and the state of California to continue to provide support and assistance to our local businesses.”

Recent relaxed shelter-in-place orders — both at a state and county level — may provide some degree of relief to Davis businesses in the coming days. On May 4, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced that the state would move into the second of his four-stage reopening process, allowing for some “low-risk” businesses to resume. And on May 21, Yolo County had been approved to move further into the reopening process, according to Yolo County Public Information Office’s Manager of Public Affairs Jenny Tan in a daily briefing.

“This means that our county has met criteria outlined by the California Department of Public Health to move more quickly through Stage Two,” Tan said. “Activities and businesses that are now eligible in Yolo County to reopen include dine-in restaurants and shopping centers like retail stores and swap meets.”

In a May 26 press release, the county announced which activities and business had been approved for reopening under the new, relaxed restrictions. Non-essential offices, in-store retail shopping centers and dine-in restaurants were eligible to reopen as of May 27, according to the release. Hair salons and barbershops could reopen after May 28 and places of worship could reopen as of May 29. The release highlighted the importance of complying with state guidance for reopening during the pandemic, making special note of restrictions for dine-in services at restaurants. 

“Some key measures to note in the State’s guidance for dine-in restaurants include, but are not limited to: removing tables and chairs from dining areas so that six feet of physical distance can be maintained, closing bar areas, adjusting maximum occupancy rules, encouraging reservations, performing thorough, frequent cleaning, and installing hand sanitizer dispensers at entrances and contact areas,” according to the press release.

Even with the relaxed shelter-in-place orders, however, Davis businesses will still face significant challenges. The Chamber conducted an information session via Zoom on May 15, during which police, city and Chamber officials fielded questions from community members and business owners about operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistant City Manager Ash Feeney discussed the challenge of restoring customer confidence — creating business spaces where customers feel safe enough from infection to visit and spend money.

“We’re continuing to see more businesses allowed to open, but they’re not necessarily opening in the way we did business yesterday,” Feeney said. “What we’re trying to do is be proactive in thought and say ‘Okay, if it isn’t going to look like it did two or three months ago with respect to commerce, what can we do to help facilitate businesses to ensure that customers are comfortable coming back and getting those cash registers ringing again?’” 

Written by: Tim Lalonde — city@theaggie.org