Small Businesses Brace for Uncertain Future Amid Virus Outbreak
Mar. 19–As Las Vegas casinos closed their doors amid the coronavirus crisis this week, many more small businesses became collateral damage in the unprecedented shutdown.
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday ordered casinos and all other nonessential businesses in the state to shut down for 30 days to help stem the spread of the virus that has infected at least 55 people and led to one death in Nevada.
“We've never been through anything like this,” said Judy Del Rossi, who owns three Tiffany Couture Cleaners locations with her husband, Dan.
In business since 1970, the couple not only cater to the public but clean uniforms for workers at high-end retail stores and costumes for stage show performers at Strip resorts. That business has come to a screeching halt.
“We clean for stores in the Venetian, but that will apparently stop,” Dan Del Rossi said earlier this week, before the shutdown was announced. “We've slowed down some at this point, but it's largely been steady, at least with residential customers. We expect that to change.”
With so many valley small businesses depending — directly or indirectly — on gaming and tourism dollars, the trickle-down effect of the casino closures is expected to be significant.
Joseph Amato, director for the Small Business Administration's Nevada district office, said Tuesday that he's already talked to business owners who are laying off employees.
“Small businesses are in a survival stage right now,” Amato said. “Many of these businesses depend in some way on gaming and tourism. Businesses that are in a position to do so are going to have to find a way to remain solvent for what we hope will be just a few weeks.”
The Nevada congressional delegation released a letter Wednesday calling on congressional leadership to provide financial support to the state's tourism industry, which adds $19 billion to the state's gross domestic product and supports more than 450,000 jobs.
“We need to be looking out for everybody: our small businesses, Nevada's vital gaming, tourism and outdoor recreation industries, and most importantly, our workers, especially those in the hospitality industry, who are the lifeblood of the Silver State,” the letter said.
The Small Business Administration, meanwhile, on Tuesday launched a $9 billion economic disaster relief loan program for businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Each business, Amato said, would be eligible for up to a $2 million loan for a term of 30 years, with an interest rate of 3.75%. Because the virus crisis qualifies as an economic disaster, nonprofits are also eligible to apply.
Dan Del Rossi said he doesn't anticipate having to take advantage of the program. If the crisis doesn't last too long, Tiffany Couture Cleaners will likely recover, he said.
“We know that not everybody is in our same position,” Del Rossi said. “We have a large customer base and we've been around a long time, which helps, but we've never faced businesses closing like this. It's very concerning.”
Chris Connors, owner of Me Gusta Tacos and a wine bar called The Local at The District at Green Valley Ranch, made the decision to close the businesses on Monday. He said the health and safety of his 25 employees and his customers trumped any thoughts of staying open.
“It was really a moral decision more than anything else,” Connors said. “This is all quite scary. At times like this, that's when we'd rally and want to go support local businesses, but we can't do that because we're being told to stay home.”
“I've owned restaurants for 10 years, and I've certainly never come across anything like this before,” he said.
Connors said there's little to do but wait and see what unfolds and how long his businesses might have to remain closed.
“We've been fiscally responsible,” Connors said. “I've heard some talk about landlords forgoing rent for a time, which is something that would help small businesses a lot, I think. My mindset is that this will get better.”
But even if business disruptions from the virus last only a few weeks, it could take much longer for businesses to recover, Amato said.
“It's probably going to take another 60 to 90 days,” Amato said. “Recovery for a business could take 12 months. We just don't know.”
Las Vegas Sun reporter John Sadler contributed to this report.
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