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‘I Can’t Keep Doing This:’ Small Business Owners Are Giving Up

  • July 13, 2020

“It had been in the back of our minds, just like, you know, if this happens again, can we make it?” Mr. Muscari said. “We were following all the rules and people were spread out. We never had anybody catch the virus in our establishment.”

Mr. Muscari, with the business closed and its 30 employees jobless, has nothing left but his house and his car. He also expects his landlord to try to sue him for the eight years’ worth of rent he is contracted to pay on his defunct restaurant’s space.

Many small businesses are also finding it onerous keep up with constantly changing local guidelines, while others are deciding that no matter what their local officials say, it just is not safe to keep going. Gabriel Gordon, the owner of a tiny but popular barbecue restaurant in Seal Beach, Calif., decided to close permanently after studying the restaurant’s layout. He had determined that the kitchen would never be safe for multiple staff members to occupy at once while the virus was still active in the area.

“It’s essentially two hallways that are 11 feet wide,” Mr. Gordon said, describing the shape of the restaurant, Beachwood BBQ. “There are food trucks that are larger than my kitchen.”

Whatever the specific reasons may be for each closure, Justin Norman, Yelp’s vice president of data science, said that the federal government should offer small businesses more help. Mr. Norman said Yelp was concerned about the effects of small business closures, especially those owned by people of color, on society. Yelp, however, also has a financial interest in maintaining a robust small business environment, because it relies heavily on advertising by businesses on its platform.

“The time is right now to inject more capital or we may lose them forever,” Mr. Norman said. “It’s going to make our economies worse, it’s going to make our communities worse.”

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