Bay Area small businesses fear state-ordered shutdowns

Mikonos Grill in Milpitas has been in business a dozen years. But owner Eli Ramirez says he’s not sure he’ll make it to 13. That chilling reality comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced another possible shutdown of non-essential businesses.

“There are things that need money to keep paying. Health insurance, mortgage, my three employees that I got left support themselves and their families,” Ramirez said.

Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, the grill is strictly take-out. And business is down almost 50%. Add to that, a waiting game to see if a regional shutdown is initiated by hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity rates dropping below 15%.

“We have to be more mindful than ever of the economic impact and consequences of these further restrictions,” said Newsom.

Those new restrictions, anticipated to hit around mid or late December, could cripple the newly-opened student math learning center next door to the grill, which has already lost 70% of its business.

“Many businesses around the area of Milpitas, many small businesses, have already shut down. And it’s the small business owners that have been impacted the most,” said Mathnasium owner Andy Fry.

Added San Jose State University strategic management prof. Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, “We don’t know how deep a recession this is gonna cause. It’s certainly gonna make things worse, and harder.”

He said government lifelines are fine for the short-term. But true economic sustainability depends on foot traffic into small businesses.

“If the shutdowns happen when things hit the 15% level, you’re going to loose some businesses. Some people are going to go out of business,” said Dr. Wood.

The parachute from keeping the economy from crashing are efforts on the federal level to provide small business bailout funds and tax breaks. Dr. Wood said since the election, there’s better coordination on that front, but still no bill has passed Congress.