LIVERMORE, Calif. - An East Bay man is fighting to save his garage-based bike repair business after the City of Livermore cited him for working from home.
"Through this trying time, we are asked if you can work from home, work from home," said AJ Wright, owner of AJ’s Bike Service.
That’s exactly what AJ Wright did when he got furloughed from his job as a contractor at the start of the pandemic. He turned his lifelong dream of owning his own business, a bike repair shop, into a reality. He got a business license last June and has been working out of his home garage in Livermore ever since.
"It just exploded," said Wright. "Everybody was riding their bike when the pandemic hit and I honestly couldn't keep up with the amount of messages that I was getting."
Wright hit a major road block last week when a city worker issued him a citation over complaints and violating a city code. The code states only certain businesses can have people come and go at their homes like music lessons, home bakeries, but nothing about bike repair.
"I’m just trying to make an honest living and support the community and it just feels that’s being attacked," said Wright.
"That code is decades-old but it’s really important we support our small businesses," said Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner.
Woerner said he's working with Wright but it will take time, a public hearing and then a city council vote to amend the city code.
"We’ll have to put rules in place to make sure a business such as his if we decide to enable it that it’s done in a way that it doesn’t disturb the neighborhood," said Woerner.
"If someone views this as a hassle, I don't understand why," said Neighbor Brian Cambra. "It hasn’t been getting in my way and I live across the street from him."
More than 5,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to help Wright. Wright is often seen at charity and community events and donating bikes to kids in need.
Wright hopes he and the city can come to a resolution encouraging other small business owners to speak up.
"It’s hard right now, everything is difficult but don't give up," said Wright. "This is a perfect example of not giving up and fighting a good fight."
The city told him he could continue to work only if he picks up and drops off the bikes himself. He said it will cut his workload and client base significantly.