Business owners gather in Clovis Monday evening to discuss a mass reopening of businesses against state and county guidelines Oct. 1. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on September 15, 2020 - 12:52 PM
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Under pressure from mounting expenses and a lack of customers and clients, hundreds of businesses across Fresno County are planning to reopen en masse at the start of next month — with or without state approval.

Monday night, owners and representatives from what organizers said is roughly 150 businesses in the area met at No Surrender Laser Tag in Clovis to strategize and discuss opening back up on the target date of Oct. 1 while also garnering the support of the public. With many of them facing total closure, the owners have decided they have nothing to lose. It was a sentiment shared by Fresno restaurant owner Lewis Everk, who organized the event.

“We’ve done our part, I believe,” Everk said. “I think a lot of us have really done our part in taking guidance that was given to us and we’re at a crossroads. Today, I received two letters from landlords that are just not happy — they’re not willing to wait anymore.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced the end of the county watchlist, favoring the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. For Yosemite Falls Café owner Manny Perales and many others, however, the new guidelines pose too long a wait to reopen for too little a payoff, citing the loss of 70% of his total workforce so far.

“When we got this last color-coded guideline from our governor, we all knew it just didn’t make sense,” Perales said at the meeting. “It’s not attainable. We’re not going to be opening anytime soon if we stick to those guidelines.”

Under this system, Fresno County is considered a “purple tier” county. It still needs to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases before restaurants can seat at 25% capacity, or no more than 100 diners.

The business owners in attendance — who included not only restaurants but also entertainment centers, salons, barbershops, gyms and other establishments — are hoping to rely on strength in numbers to defy state and county orders. They’re next step is to encourage as many businesses as possible to join their cause.

Everk and others are planning a rally for  Sep. 21 to raise awareness and recruit newcomers.

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