Local businesses struggle to overcome setbacks provided by COVID-19

As regulations relax due to a decrease in cases in Placer County, local restaurants still struggle to maintain business.

Local+coffee+shops+lose+business+due+to+safety+regulations+mandated+by+the+county.

Skyler Conley

Local coffee shops lose business due to safety regulations mandated by the county.

Beginning in March of 2020, many local restaurants were forced to shut their doors due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States.

Currently, dine-in is once again permitted by the state, however, for the last two months all dine-in restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and cardrooms were not permitted to proceed with indoor operations which had dire consequences on small businesses.

One such cafe that was forced to shut its doors is The Fig Tree, a coffee shop and live music venue in downtown Roseville owned by Father Joshua Lickter.    

“COVID has been brutal,” Father Lickter said. “We’ve had to constantly reinvent ourselves and think outside of the box and try and adapt as best as we could.”

Lickter celebrated The Fig Tree’s third anniversary back in January of this year.

“It (was) the best January we’ve had; the year was looking to be amazing,” Father Lickter said. “And then (in) mid-February as COVID started to spread… our sales started to plummet 10 or 15 percent every week.”

Father Licketer made the decision to close Fig Tree not only due to the decrease in sales but also due to awareness as well.

“I wanted to err on the side of caution and keep our employees safe and keep the community who come here safe as well.” Father Lickter said.

Shortly after The Fig Tree closed, many other businesses on Vernon Street began closing as well.

The Fig Tree was shut down for two months but opened for takeout once the county allowed for it. Fig Tree began selling their coffee beans across the country alongside their beverages to make up for lost sales. 

“What a lot of people don’t realize is small businesses… still have to pay their rent, still have to pay their insurance, still have to pay their utilities, and still have all these commitments to payments,” Father Lickter said. “Most small businesses didn’t get a break in any of those areas.”

What a lot of people don’t realize is small businesses… still have to pay their rent, still have to pay their insurance, still have to pay their utilities, and still have all these commitments to payments”

— Father Lickter

Although Fig Tree is open back to how it once was, things aren’t the same with dine-in only allowing for quarter capacity.

“We used to have events here all the time,” Father Lickter said. “We had live music every single night, we had people who would gather here for bible studies or for book groups, for counseling sessions, or for small business meet-ups… And we couldn’t do any of that at quarter capacity… It was really really hard.”

After the first three weeks of being open for indoor seating by order of the state, Fig Tree was once again forced to shut its doors and revert to exclusively outdoor seating.

Unfortunately, the outdoor seating was short lived due to the heat wave and unhealthy air quality from the many fires spread across California.

“There’s just been a whole series of catastrophic events making it really hard on ourselves and all small businesses here.” Father Lickter said.

Despite all the hardships, The Fig Tree is once again open to indoor seating at quarter capacity.

Even with indoor seating permitted by the state, The Fig Tree has managed to lose customers due to mask enforcement.

“For the safety of our employees and our patrons we are following (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” Father Lickter said. “We’ve had people that have walked up, they saw the ‘masks required’ signs, … yelled at us and (went) to another coffee shop. That’s been hard to see.”

Although it’s been difficult, Father Lickter remains positive about his impact on the community.

“I think that COVID has not hindered our ability to… bring people together,” Father Lickter said. “I still see people hanging out here enjoying themselves, enjoying time with family and with friends and it’s really encouraging to see that.”

Another local coffee shop that has been affected by COVID is Four Score Coffee, a shop owned by Luke Noland that provides quality coffee made with locally provided beans as well.

Much like other local businesses, Four Score Coffee has had its fair share of difficulties through the pandemic.

“Customers were initially fearful to come out and get coffee,” Noland said. “Now they are no longer fearful, but the restrictions … have added costs and (a) mental toll on our staff to keep up on those guidelines.”

Local businesses have been hit with a plethora of troubles from all different angles, a huge one on all fronts being CDC regulations. 

“Our greatest challenge has been the line between recommendation and enforcement of masks,” Noland said. “Some of our customers are upset because we don’t mandate masks to enter Four Score, but our employees are mandated to wear them.”

It appears that whether stores decide to require masks to be worn inside or not, there will always be a group of people made upset by the decision. 

Although the pandemic has been difficult for local businesses, they are staying open despite the obstacles they may face, and the owners continue their journeys with tenacity.

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