Stanley Pas had just relocated West Coast Leather to a new San Francisco location earlier this year when the novel coronavirus pandemic effectively shut down his business.
Three months later, Pas and manager Joe Crane were excited to welcome customers Monday when business resumes as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-phase plan to reopen California.
“We already implemented all of these safety procedures,” Pas said Sunday. “We’ve had the store cleaned and disinfected for two weeks.”
Monday was shaping up to be a big day for small businesses and their customers after weeks of closures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Some counties in the Bay Area — San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Santa Cruz — and across the state will be re-opening more businesses and facilities in Phase 2 of the governor’s plan.
Contra Costa and Santa Clara county officials have not yet announced plans to begin implementing Phase 2 openings ahead of the expiration of shelter-at-home orders on May 31. Alameda County officials indicated during a showdown with the Tesla car company last week that they would enter Phase 2 as soon as data supported that decision.
Neetu Balram, a spokesperson for Alameda County’s health department, said Sunday that “We are monitoring the data this weekend, and as long as our indicators continue to show we’re moving in the right direction we plan to share details about easing restrictions and moving into Early Stage 2 activities early this week.”
Plans for reopening businesses have mostly been handled locally because infection rates are different throughout California.
County officials need to submit a 12-page application called a “local variance attestation” to get approval to begin the Phase 2 plan. Some of the criteria include one or fewer cases per 10,000 county residents in the past 14 days, no deaths for the past 14 days and minimum daily testing of 1.5 people per 1,000 residents, with a recommendation of 2 per 1,000.
Almost two dozen Northern California counties are expected to begin advanced Phase 2 openings this week, including Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lassen, Nevada, Mariposa, Modoc, Placer, Plumas, San Benito, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Tuolumne and Yuba.
While some owners sounded buoyant Sunday, others running small businesses said they were confused by what was allowed because of the lack of statewide uniformity.
“We’re not sure, so we’re not opening,” said Caitlyn Schleifer, owner of the Leading the Pack dog grooming salon in Oakland.
The “early” stage of Phase 2 includes opening manufacturing, logistics, childcare for those outside of the essential workforce, office-based businesses (although telework remains strongly encouraged), car washes, pet grooming, landscaping, outdoor museums, open gallery spaces and other public spaces with modifications.
Still to come is the “advanced” stage of Phase 2: the full reopening of retail stores, shopping malls, swap meets, dine-in restaurants and schools with modifications.
Still not permitted are many recreational facilities such as movie theaters, arcades, indoor museums, zoos, libraries, community centers, public pools, playgrounds, picnic areas, religious services, cultural ceremonies, bars, nightclubs and concert venues, live audience sports, festivals, theme parks, nonessential travel and higher education.
Personal services such as nail and hair salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios are part of the Phase 3 implementation, which Newsom has indicated may be months away.
Pamela Golightly, owner of Naturally Yours nail salon in Lafayette, said the experience has been frustrating because of a lack of information on when Phase 3 might begin and what protocols need to take place.
“Nobody knows anything about anything,” she said Sunday of her efforts to contact Contra Costa County officials seeking guidance.
But after two months with all but essential businesses shuttered, the latest sign of loosening restrictions had some feeling relief.
“It is not close to pre-pandemic days yet but it feels like a step forward,” said Burlingame’s Douglas Luftman, a lawyer specializing in technology companies.
Luftman said he planned to pick up some puzzles for his two teenagers Monday at Nuts for Candy, a toy store that owners John and Nora Kevranian planned to reopen Monday.
John Kevranian, also the president of the Broadway Burlingame Improvement District, plans to open at 10 a.m. Monday with a table in front of the store. He and his wife had everything prepared but spent Sunday uploading thousands of photos of their inventory to the shop’s Facebook page, hoping to make it easier for shoppers to pick what they want.
“We want to show the public exactly what we have,” John Kevranian said.
To meet to rules of Phase 2 reopening, John Kevranian said customers would not be allowed in the store, and must pay with credit cards. The Kevranians will bag bulk candy inside the store, then bring it out to customers in front.
The store has loaded up on jigsaw puzzles, a hot commodity during the shelter-at-home era.
Kevranian, of San Bruno, said he wasn’t sure if his business will ever return to the way he used to run it.
“We’re going to be changing completely,” he said. “Things are going to change by the hour, not by the day.”
Pas, of West Coast Leather, shared the same anxious feelings as Phase 2 loomed. For now, Pas plans to run the store with only his manager. He said he has five store employees and 10 more workers doing manufacturing in Southern California.
Pas said he was open for one month at his new 5,000-square foot location, which used to be an Eddie Bauer store, when the shutdown began. Sales dropped by 90 percent since the lockdown began, he said.
“It’s the punch that hits us left and right,” said Pas, who has owned the boutique leather store for 17 years.
Stanley Pas and his daughter, Michelle Pas, added that the store had been preparing for reopening for weeks, gathering masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, and putting up signs advising customers and staff about safety guidelines.
Michelle Pas said the store had been holding some goods that had been in ordered in March until customers came in and picked them up. The store is selling more goods online, Stanley Pas said, but customers physically visiting the store to try on clothes and get alterations is a big part of the business.
As an example of how much has changed during the global pandemic, Pas said he celebrated recently — when he was able to find sanitary wipes that had been out of stock for weeks.
“You get excited for little things like getting the right supplies for your business,” he said.
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Author: Elliott Almond