Many of our small businesses — restaurants, hair salons and fitness centers in particular — have suffered greatly throughout this pandemic.
When the mandate to close their doors went into effect back in March, they were restricted from generating income. At the same time, these business owners were told they had to pay state licensing fees that come along with owning their business. So, the State of Minnesota cut off their ability to generate income, but still expected them to pay these fees. There was no wavering. And, as I’ve said before, when a small business owner struggles with their business, they feel that pain at home with their personal finances, as well.
I’ve heard this story shared by countless business owners in our region. Any business cannot survive forever if they have to keep paying fixed costs while seeing their only source of revenue diminish so significantly.
So restaurants, bars, hair salons and fitness centers were eventually allowed to reopen.
And, then the mask mandate went into effect, care of Governor Walz.
People can debate on the subject of mask effectiveness all day long. I’m not here to debate that subject.
What concerns me is how so many of these small town locally-owned businesses have struggled through the shutdown, and now they are contending with citizens who want to turn in anyone who isn’t wearing a mask.
There are people walking into restaurants and taking pictures of people not wearing masks. There are people calling the Minnesota Department of Public Health to report people not wearing masks. There are people calling our local police departments to report people not wearing masks. There are people going on social media and blasting businesses about their social distancing and mask-wearing concerns.
What have we become? Neighbor versus neighbor?
One restaurant owner told me that on the first day the mask mandate went into effect, July 25, she told an early morning regular customer that he had to wear a mask (he wasn’t wearing one). That customer said, “I guess I’m out of here.” He walked out the door and hasn’t been back to spend any money at her restaurant since that day. Can you see the awkward tension these business owners are facing?
I hear about these situations all the time.
In another conversation I had last week, a restaurant owner pleaded, “Do people want me to go out of business?”
There are so many of these business owners who have invested their blood, sweat and tears into their dream, and they are caught in the middle of decisions that are beyond their control. And, then they feel like they have people in their community working against them.
They are doing their best, given the circumstances. Let’s not make it more difficult for small business owners.