Berkeley businesses struggle amid COVID-19 pandemic

Emma Drake/Staff

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Berkeley businesses are struggling due to the COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, pandemic.

Many nonprofits, arts organizations and other businesses in Berkeley have experienced a drop in business, according to Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner in a letter sent to Berkeley city officials Friday. The letter attributes this drop to the COVID-19 situation.

Caner said many arts and entertainment venues have closed or are facing the risk of closure.

“We are working with the city to try to get relief for our businesses,” Caner said. “The businesses in Berkeley particularly are just really, really struggling with the downward customers.”

In the letter, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Berkeley Association, Telegraph Business Improvement District and Visit Berkeley request help from Berkeley city officials for struggling businesses.

According to the letter, businesses have already seen a 25%-75% drop in gross receipts compared to this time last year.

The letter also suggested measures to support businesses, including decreasing business taxes and fees, starting a fund to provide relief through grants, providing interest-free loans, seeking unemployment benefits for employees and contract workers with significant income loss and establishing a moratorium on new business regulations.

“We have seen a 20%-30% business drop in customers after the outbreak of the virus. We have to dedicate more cleaning tasks,” said Peter Fikaris, co-owner of vegan delicatessen The Butcher’s Son. “The major influence is the slow down in business.”

The Butcher’s Son, located on University Avenue, increased cleanings for its tables, chairs and menus, according to Fikaris. Signs indicating that the tables have been sanitized have also been implemented, Fikaris added.

There are two major ways the coronavirus spreads, according to John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at UC Berkeley. The first is contact transmission, which refers to the spread of the virus through inanimate objects.

The second major way is transmission through bodily fluids, which can expose anyone within a 6-foot range to the virus, according to Swartzberg.

During a press conference Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom advised all bars, night clubs, wineries and brewpubs to close. Newsom also asked restaurants to reduce their occupancy by half, implement social distancing and provide hot, prepared and nutritious deliveries and curbside food services.

“For private businesses, it’s trying the best you can to have social distancing, that is … the 6-foot rule and washing your hands obsessively,” Swartzberg said. “In terms of running a business, this can be hard … so do the best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect; don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good but be always conscious to try to minimize the risk.”

Contact Joy Ma at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dcjoyma.