As the spread of COVID-19 continues to excel throughout America, most states implemented special precautions to keep the public safe. On March 16, Governor John Bel Edwards mandated that all nonessential businesses must close until April 13. Restaurants are still allowed to serve food through curbside pickup or drive-thru.
Among those impacted financially by these new regulations are small-business owners. It is no secret that in East Baton Rouge, many local businesses rely on college students for sales. With the early closure of Louisiana State University for the remainder of the spring semester, business owners are left without many options.
“Sales do dip in the summer months when [college students] leave,” says Jenée Esquivel, owner of Moxi Boutique. “It’s kind of like that’s hitting early but even more severe. So we’ll have March, April, May, June and July to get through.”
Esquivel made the tough decision last week to close her business temporarily. To adapt to the changes, she has made her merchandise available for purchase online and offers curbside pickup at her store.
Next door to Moxi Boutique, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has only been open for 11 months. Owner Mark Brown says things were finally looking great for his business until these new regulations took effect.
“Sales are down about 35 to 40 percent,” says Brown.
Another restaurant in the area, Caliente Mexican Craving, is seeing a decline in sales as well. They have made small changes such as adding a drive-thru in their parking lot and taking a food truck out to sell tacos during the week.
“The first day was pretty devastating. I was concerned. I would say most days it’s been about one-fourth of our normal sales,” says Jessica Barraza, owner of Caliente Mexican Craving.
If this trend continues, some small businesses will be left with no choice but to close down permanently. The decision to open nonessential businesses back up or keep them closed will be made by the governor April 13.