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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Businesses worried spike in county COVID cases could mean a shutdown

The business community is on edge after county leaders 'sounded the alarm' recently that San Diego County’s COVID-19 case rate has increased and raised concerns.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County officials say San Diego is living on the edge of going into the higher, more restrictive "purple" tier if case numbers don’t drop. They are urging San Diegans to do everything they can to reduce their exposure to the virus in order to avoid moving to the most restrictive tier.

But many local business owners say they’ve already had an extremely difficult time trying to operate and don’t want to be forced to scale back or shut down.

“It’s incredibly difficult. I can’t, you know, make any money,” said Dan Milles, owner of Beach Bumzz in Pacific Beach.

Milles said he’s already worried. It’s his first time owning a restaurant, that he started with an executive chef business partner in December 2019, who quit when the pandemic hit.

“If they do make it more restrictive, and we go back to the takeout then I’m just going to be in a world of hurt,” said Milles, whose restaurant serves pizza, breakfast burritos, tacos, fish and chips.

Concerns have been growing for business owners after San Diego County leaders sounded the alarm Friday.

San Diego County Supervisor and COVID-19 taskforce leader Nathan Fletcher said “in an ideal world we would be anticipating descending into a lower tier, but right now we are fighting to stay where we are.”

The County’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten echoed the warning, "Today we are here to sound the alarm…that is just too close for comfort,” Wooten said.

A spike in COVID-19 cases could mean the county moves to a more restrictive tier that would drastically impact businesses.

“In March and April when all we could do was takeout, our sales just plummeted,” Milles said.

Milles’ sales shot down 70%, and so did his PB neighbors.

“Two businesses around the corner, Mimi’s Tacos and a Hawaiian place, they both closed," he said. 

Then next door to Milles is Our Green Affair - a new family-owned restaurant that serves customized salads, bowls and loaded potatoes. It opened right before the pandemic shutdown.

“It’s all about keeping our heads help high and working hard to succeed. At the end of the day that’s all that’s in our control,” said Jeanette Gaistman, co-owner of Our Green Affair with her father and sister.

The artsy green spot is grateful for outdoor space and repeat customers.

“Thanks to them, that’s what’s helping us stay alive," Gaistman said.

But the uncertainty of what could happen to the restaurant if COVID cases continue to increase is not easy.

"It does worry us because for business purposes we wouldn’t want to shut down,” Gaistman said.

Businesses like Beach Bumzz say financial aid has mainly been going to established companies around for 12 months or more, which overlook his place in operation for 10 months.

“I’m not getting any help whatsoever, not from the feds, not from the county, not from the city," Milles said.

He said he’s had a challenge getting an $800 sign permit through the city that he didn’t even know he needed. He said he put in his application on Sept. 3 and still has not received any word back.

For the county to officially move into the most restrictive purple tier, it would take two consecutive weeks of having an adjusted case rate of 7.1 or above.

“If they go back to that or if this continues on for months and months and months, I think I’m going to have to close down. There’s no way I could continue to do that,” Milles said.