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By Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

Open or not open? Businesses in town weigh the options

 

Last updated 4/3/2020 at 3:50am

Driving down Main Street in Fallbrook on a Monday afternoon didn't seem all that different from driving down the road any other day.

Drive-thru at local fast-food restaurants were busy with cars in line, banks had widely spaced lines of folks waiting outside to go in, cars and trucks packing the parking lots at local hardware stores.

As those essential-type businesses continue to do the work they are allowed to do, there are little pockets here and there in town that seem to be continuing to work, though they aren't supposed to be according to county and statewide restrictions.

"I've had several people either message me or send me emails or text me because they're upset that several businesses are open and (the people contacting) are not being able to work," Lila MacDonald, CEO of Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, said. "They ask, 'Why do they not have to follow the rules?'

MacDonald said while her sole motivation is building up Fallbrook businesses, she has had to have conversations with local law enforcement about what the repercussions are for businesses that disobey the rules.

"The sheriff's department will go out and issue warnings right now and then if you don't heed the warning, then you're going to get a fine," she said.

She said there were a couple of businesses at the beginning of this that were very vocal on social media about remaining open, but most of those have closed their doors.

MacDonald believes most businesses in the area that are not deemed essential have shut down normal operations at least. Others are getting creative.

"The Beauty Bar is one of them that I feel is super creative, her new one is she is putting together kits for nurses," MacDonald said. "I can buy one, Venmo her money, then she can get a bunch of kits and then drop them off to the nurses. She's not open for business, per se, but I'm going to do hair."

MacDonald also mentioned Dominick's Sandwiches and Italian Market, which is well known for their sandwiches, but who are now offering grocery goods for sale.

"Dominick is being super creative that way," she said, "It's usually a small part of his business, but right now he's able to sell everything from milk to eggs to pasta."

Faro Trupiano was manning the front counter at 127 West Social House at lunchtime Monday, March 30, usually a busy time for the restaurant. At 12:30 p.m., however, there was only one pickup order being worked on.

"From what I'm finding out, the restaurants that were predominantly known for their dine-in, people that want to come and have dinner in a cool vibe, cool ambiance, that kind of stuff, I feel like these are the restaurants that are struggling a bit," he said. "Versus the ones that already had an established to-go business that for a lot of people that is the norm."

He said his Trupiano's Italian Bistro just up the street was doing better than 127 Social House because customers were accustomed to the pickup, drive-thru offerings already in place. Having to pivot 127 West Social House into a similar model has been a much tougher sell.

"They would go pick up a pizza or some pasta through the drive-thru, at Trupiano's on a regular basis," Trupiano said. "So to do it now, it doesn't really change anything for them. 127 is struggling a little bit, we went from full hours to noon to 8 p.m. daily.

"I'm contemplating whether or not that's the right way to go. I could just move into dinner only. I'm not really sure," he said.

The ability to pivot and recognize what is working and what isn't is what Trupiano said he wakes up with every day.

"I start every day with a thought of what am I going to promote today?" he said. "What am I going to do differently today? As well as reflecting on all these new ways of kind of doing business. I'm not completely discouraged in the sense of when we come out of this thing, it's going to be different. There are going to be new norms.

"This has exposed a different side of 127 as far as people that didn't normally get to-go, maybe they now will," he said. "Maybe in the reopening I will have my old dine-in business, plus an increased to-go business kind of thing."

Trupiano said going through this ordeal has revealed some changes that need to be made to the businesses and has changed him a bit.

"It really just kind of re-grounded me," he said. "Kind of put me back in the trenches and I haven't really minded. There are days where it's like right now, it's just me and the darkness kind of thing, but it's just definitely an interesting time."

And Trupiano was a little set back by the recent announcement of extending the restrictions through April.

"It was a little discouraging to hear the extension to April 30," Trupiano said. "I feel like March seemed like it had like 50 days in it. So to go another 30 days of this is going to be interesting. I think people are going to start getting pretty anxious.

"I just hope that they just don't say, 'Hey, screw it. Let's just forget the quarantine. Because that's only just going to prolong this whole thing. Hey, let's just be smart. Support the restaurants and local businesses in the right way. All the other stuff, let's just hold off on that."

Businesses like Trupiano's could benefit from the record $2.2 trillion emergency relief package that President Donald Trump signed into law last week.

"It will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help American workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who helped negotiate the package, said.

The package includes $50 billion in tax credits for businesses that keep employees on payroll and will cover 50% of those workers' paychecks. Companies can also defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security tax, giving them an incentive to put off layoffs at a time when ordinary business has come to a halt.

According to GlobalData Retail, more than 180,000 stores are temporarily shuttered, accounting for more than 40% of U.S. retail space and nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week – almost five times the previous record set in 1982.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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