How businesses are coping with Little’s statewide ‘stay-home’ order
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IDAHO FALLS — Some local business owners are frantic after Gov. Brad Little issued a “stay-home” order Wednesday for nonessential businesses to shut down.
During his press conference, he said nonessential businesses such as bars, nightclubs, gyms, entertainment venues, convention centers, and hair and nail salons must close for 21 days. Little also signed an extreme emergency declaration in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Savanna Smith, the owner of Salon Savvy, a beauty salon in Rigby, didn’t expect COVID-19 to get to the point where her business would be forced to shut its doors.
“It’s a little stressful, not going to lie,” Smith said. “I don’t even know if people can get paid through payroll because I don’t know if payroll will be shut down. I don’t know if they’re able to get their next check, or if I have to pay them a little bit until they can actually get their check.”
She has eight total employees, and none of them can work from home because it’s against the law. If they do, they could face fines and suspension of their license.
“There’s been a couple (COVID-19) cases on this side of east Idaho but not a lot that I feel like they should be mandating shutdowns,” Smith said. “I can maybe see Boise, but Rigby, Idaho?”
Essential businesses, including health care, public safety, media outlets, child care providers, restaurant drive-thrus and grocery stores, are exempt from the order, Little said. But Smith is frustrated because the services her business provides has to be done inside a building.
“It’s not like we can have a drive-thru for getting your nails done,” Smith explained. “You just cross your fingers that you have a business to come back to.”
While the future is unclear, Smith is asking the community to do what they can to help small businesses survive.
“The best way to support salons and places like that are to try and schedule for as soon as they can open, so they can start getting income as fast as they can,” Smith said. “Get on their schedule now so they have peace of mind for in three weeks they’ll be able to at least pay their bills.”
Tap N Fill Pub
Susan Gardner owns Tap N Fill Pub at Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls with her husband, Jeff.
“It’s huge for me. I have no income for 21 days,” Susan said. “I’ve worked hard for what I have.”
The Gardners opened Tap N Fill a few years ago and were becoming successful small-business owners. Gardner said the 21-day stay-at-home order may cause them to go bankrupt. They’re worried they won’t have a life to go back to once businesses, such as bars, can open again.
“They went from zero to 100 really fast,” Susan said. “It’s (business) is going to slow down to nothing.”
In fact, the pub received an order of beer, paid in cash, Wednesday morning, hours before Little’s announcement. They assumed they would be able to operate with only 10 people inside Wednesday morning.
Gardner said they hope to be able to still sell their bottled beers, wines and growlers to customers as to-go orders.
Chris and Natalie Morris, co-owners of Firehouse Subs, have already been operating in a takeout environment with COVID-19. He said they aren’t anticipating a big change because of Little’s announcement, but they want the community to know they are still serving food.
Firehouse Subs is in Idaho Falls and Pocatello. He said the Idaho Falls location has been “hanging in there pretty well” since moving to take-out orders. He said 80 percent of business there was already take-out to begin with, but in Pocatello, they are down about 75 to 80 percent in business.
“We’ve had a lot of people come in and say they thought we were closed, so that’s what we’re thinking the biggest drop is,” Chris told EastIdahoNews.com.
Food can be ordered via the Rapid Rescue To Go online ordering system, phone call-in orders, and where available, third-party delivery. He said they will continue to follow the CDC recommendations for sanitary purposes.
“If they change something as far as the recommendations, we’ll have to re-evaluate, but right now, we’re staying open and trying to serve the public,” Chris said.
Through the end of April, they will continue to give away a free kid’s combo with the purchase of a medium or large sub by showing this coupon at the register or mentioning it on the phone.
Apple Athletic Club
Apple Athletic General Manager Ray Gordon understands the necessity to control the virus, but he feels businesses could do a lot to abide by the rules of safety.
Staff was taking people’s temperatures as they’d walk into the gym, using hospital-grade disinfectant and limiting class sizes prior to Little’s announcement.
“It’s really a catch-22,” he said. “I think people are going to go stir-crazy. … I see both sides.”
Apple Athletic is shutting down Wednesday at midnight, and the tennis center will close at 8:30 p.m.
“We will spend the next 21 days with cleaning crews here, completely sanitizing. We already have that, but we’re going to go through and really make it completely ready for when we get a change to reopen,” Gordon said.
“We hope that everybody stays healthy and we come through this as not only a healthy nation but an economically healthy nation. I want to get the economy back and running as soon as possible,” he said. “The economic problems, if we continue to be closed down across the country, are going to be as big of a problem as the virus is.”
Some businesses like Dennings Appliances in Idaho Falls consider themselves an essential business because people still need to get their appliances fixed or purchase new ones.
“We’ve got people who we’ve sold tons of freezers, people’s freezers go out, their fridges go out, their ranges go out, and then what are they supposed to do?” employee Jan Rowberry told EastIdahoNews.com. “And we’ve got a ton of people who are building homes and right at the end stage of it. They need their appliances, or they can’t close.”
She said they will remain open until they’re told otherwise, but even then, they would still need to be available to the public somehow.
“We had a lady who came in and she’s got, I don’t know how many little kids, and her washer went out. … So what are you supposed to do?,” Rowberry said. “It’s just one of those things.”
Smith Chevrolet and Honda in Idaho Falls
The doors will remain open at Smith Chevrolet and Honda in Idaho Falls.
General Manager Cannon Smith tells EastIdahoNews.com much of what they do is an essential service, and they want to continue to be available to customers.
“Our function is to keep the critical transportation in the area flowing smoothly. We service ambulances. We take care of police vehicles. We sell to government entities, and all of that needs to continue,” Smith said.
Smith said they are aware of the CDC and state guidelines for sanitation and have been working hard to follow those. Employees who are sick are not allowed to come to work, and those who feel concerned about their health are being allowed to work from home or take time off.
“The vast majority of our team wants to continue to work and serve,” he said.
He and his staff have had a more aggressive online presence as they’ve interacted with customers, he says, and they’ve also been using their pick-up and drop-off program, where employees go to people’s houses to pick up or drop off a vehicle.
They’re also doing as much of the sales paperwork as they can in-house so that travel can be minimized for the customer.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Smith says some aspects of the business have slowed down, and he expects business will continue to drop off.
“The blessing in disguise here is we have customers who, because of their busy lives, have not taken the time to get critical safety recalls done on their vehicles. And we anticipate this will be a really good time to make that happen,” Smith said.
Idaho National Laboratory
Mark Peters, the Idaho National Laboratory director, told employees that “We have anticipated and planned for this eventuality.”
“We are in the process of implementing reduced operations that ensure the safety and security of all INL staff and facilities,” he said Wednesay. “Once we have clarity on the specifics of the stay-home order and its impact on INL and its workforce, we will be sending more detailed information and instructions to all staff this evening through our official communications channels (iNotes, mNotes, and Nucleus).”
Rogan Morse, general manager of UHaul’s Pocatello location, said in a Facebook post that UHaul is not closing.
“We are an essential business and will remain open. People need propane for heat, cooking, generators, etc. Delivery companies use us to replace trucks that have broken down so they can continue their deliveries of essential goods,” Morse said.
Fremont County Sheriff’s Office
Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries authorized a couple of services, with some stipulations, for “citizens within our community that fall into the ‘high risk’ category.” According to a Facebook post, the sheriff’s office can pick up medications and pick up and deliver small grocery orders.
To have medications picked up, you must have paid via the phone and then contact the sheriff’s office once the prescription is ready to be picked up. (All arrangements have to be done ahead of schedule).
With small grocery order pick ups, if you contact Dave’s Jubilee in Ashton, Falls Drug in St. Anthony, Ashton Community Pharmacy, Robins Roost and Groceries (this one is pending) or Broulims in St. Anthony and make a pre-payment, the sheriff’s office will deliver the items to your door.
If you or someone you know fits into this category, call (208) 624-4482.
EastIdahoNews.com reporters Rett Nelson, Mike Price and Eric Grossarth contributed to this article.
More information on the coronavirus can be found here.