CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Small businesses are still waiting for promised relief loans to come through as many remain closed or run limited operations during the coronavirus pandemic.
Victor Lopez expanded El Pollo Grill into Otay Ranch in November 2019. It’s his family’s third restaurant and quickly became their best-performing one.
“The community has supported us like you would not believe,” said Lopez, whose parents opened the first location in Lemon Grove in 1987.
However, business at all three restaurants has been down more than 30% since the county limited all restaurants to carry-out service only. In an effort to cut costs, he cut hours of some employees, discounted prices and is serving an increasing number of customers who use delivery apps.
“Even with that, our profits are less because of these apps and also because we’ve had to do sales to drive the people in,” Lopez explained. “There’s more volume, but at end of day it's less profit.”
Lopez applied for several small business loans being offered by local, state, and federal governments, but hasn’t heard back yet.
The U.S. Small Business Administration said it received nearly 500,000 applications last week. The agency handled around 60,000 in all of 2019.
Lopez turned to his accountant, Walter Lacayo, for assistance in the process. Lacayo submitted applications for his own business three weeks ago and is now helping dozens of his client’s restaurants.
“None of them have come through yet,” he said. “We’re hoping and relying that these loans to come through because if they do it’ll be a huge relief to business owners and a help to employees.”
Lacayo said most of his clients are looking forward to receiving a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, which helps businesses keep workers employed during the pandemic.
“They’re going to need it in order to be able to see through this pandemic,” said Lacayo.
Until the loans come through, businesses are trying hard to make it on their own with the help of community support.
“I think I made the right decision by staying open,” said Lopez. “We’re just trying to do whatever it takes. Hopefully, this doesn’t last past June or July. We’re going to survive but we’ll need that help from the government.”