ANALYSIS: ‘New Normal’ May Be Long Time Coming

Even on cloudy day, pent-up eatery patrons enjoyed al fresco style.

As hairstylists and some retail shops start to re-open on and around State Street, more remain closed with uncertainty while others just fold up. 

The bottom line is: There is no “new normal,” not just yet. When masks aren’t required to be worn into all businesses and there is no more social distancing, then a new normal might emerge. Don’t hold your breath. 

Even though the State Street corridor was awash with restaurants that serve pizza, Pizza Rev in Paseo Nuevo has served its last pie. However, while Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, 811A State St., has brown paper covering its windows, it is listed as “temporarily closed.” 

Meanwhile, Gap Inc., parent company of Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and others, announced this week it re-opening up to 800 of its stores around the country before the end of the month. A selection of stores in California, such as those in Santa Barbara, were already open. 

And, Santa Barbara’s commercial corridor finger that extends into Montecito, Coast Village Road, appears to be coming back to life with is small shops and eateries. 

California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control further has expanded which businesses can sell cocktails during the state’s stay-at-home order. Santa Barbara bars and restaurants have been selling cocktails to go for a week or more and serving them with meals or just by themselves. 

It should be remembered that some three decades ago during Old Spanish Day Fiesta, drinking alcohol on lower State Street was allowed. However, in years to come the scene was too rowdy and the practice ended until now. 

After building their businesses on keeping seats full, restaurants now are trying to figure out how to make a profit with a fraction of that capacity. Some have installed plexiglass walls to separate tables, hired more cleaning staff and use fewer tables, which all adds up to more expense. 

To the south, 80 percent of restaurant workers in Los Angeles County have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic. Initially, that percentage was listed as about half that in Santa Barbara County, but it remains to be seen what the figure will come out next week. Many restaurant owners said they expect months of losses ahead because of capacity constraints imposed to fight the pandemic. 

As for retail, more than 9,300 store closings were announced in the United States in 2019, clobbering the record of 8,000 store closures in 2017, according to an analysis by Business Insider. 

The number of store closings this year could be even higher than previous records, according to estimates. As many as 12,000 major chain stores could close in 2020, according to reports.  

The crisis is putting even more stores in danger of closing, as retailers grapple with dramatic drops in sales. 

Retail companies confirmed at least 3,600 stores are planned for closure in 2020, according to a Business Insider analysis.

Posted May 29, 2020.

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