Local officials allocated CARES Act funding to support small businesses in the City of Hollister that have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The city council held a special meeting on Dec. 5 to pass a resolution for one-time funding of $50,000 to help up to 30 small businesses in Hollister upgrade equipment for the winter season.
Business owners can ask to be reimbursed up to $1,500 for heaters, propane, shade sail, awning, canopies, clear canopy side roll ups and securing elements such as hardware for overhead shade structure.
The city will take written requests between Dec. 7-11 from restaurants and parklet owners who wish to winterize their outdoor locations. Expenditures incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30 may also request to be reimbursed. Thus, even local businesses that had to close or scale back due to the state’s Dec. 5 stay-at-home order for San Benito County could still use the funds for expenses incurred since the pandemic started.
The funds are accessible for restaurants and shops with parklets within the city. City Manager Brett Miller has been reaching out to business owners to let them know they’re on a short deadline and they have to spend the money by Dec. 30.
“We’ve been calling them to let them know this is happening really fast just because the county has some additional funds,” he said. “That’s why this is coming to you now so that we can use every second that we have to get a hold of everybody.”
Any remaining funds not used could be reissued to the same group of businesses if they need additional assistance.
“We’ll just keep cycling through until we’re done with the funds,” Miller said.
The funds may only be used to cover costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to Covid-19, according to city officials.
Gustavo Gonzalez Jr., general manager at La Catrina Mexian Grill, had to borrow some giant heat lamps not because he can’t afford them, but because they’re currently hard to find for purchase.
Gonzalez put up a shade sail that stretches across the top of the parklet that will provide some type of cover when the sun hits its hardest during the afternoon. But he’s been limited at what they can do with the outdoor dining area, which includes installing a solid roof.
He wants to revisit with city officials to see what can be done before it begins to rain. Gonzalez would like to have at least 20 percent of capacity for indoor dining in case of any wet weather conditions.
“I don’t think it’ll happen and it would be really difficult,” he said. “I know it’s about the safety of everyone’s health, that’s first, but the economy is very important so that people can have a paycheck, too.”
Jon Cuilla, co-owner of Pour Decisions Taproom in downtown Hollister, said they’ve had to make some adjustments as the state updates the Covid-19 guidelines. He got the news about the extra winterization funds on Friday afternoon.
Cuilla just added some electrical outlets outside because they’ll be installing electrical heaters soon to make sure people are warm throughout the winter season.
“It’s comforting to know that the city and the county and people that are in the positions of power are helping us out,” he said.
Cuilla understands the strict guidelines are a necessary process and that they need to follow them in order to keep people safe. He mentioned that they’ve been coming up with innovative ways to stay open if they do end up falling back strictly to a to-go service.
“We’ll still be able to appease the masses that want really great craft beer in the Hollister community,” he said. “We’re working on some behind the scene stuff.”
Gonzalez said they’ve been lucky enough to have clients that support them so they can remain open. He also mentioned they’ve had a ton of support from the city in terms of funding and new ideas to keep the economy running in town.
“It was some great help and the area looks a lot more beautiful because all we had before was some tents,” he said. “Plus, it’s safer for the clients and those driving by.”
Gonzalez said right now is not the time to be alarmed or get worried about the stricter state guidelines, which could also exclude outdoor dining. Instead, he wants to focus on what can be done to keep the restaurant open such as more deliveries and pick-up orders.
However, he thinks the shutdown is affecting the economy and he’s worried about keeping his staff employed. The first time he had to close La Catrina they went from 24 employees down to eight.
“The main thing is that people don’t lose their jobs because it’s not just 24 people, it’s 24 families that eat from here,” he said.
Cuilla also mentioned he’s afraid the new stricter guidelines will affect the staff because some of them need the income to provide for their families. He wants to be able to continue to provide the work so the employees can survive.
“For us, in terms of money we’re OK, not worried about that,” he said. “We’re just making sure that they have the availability to work and that people are coming to support them. That’s why we’re asking a lot of people if we go into a shutdown to do to-go service with small businesses because we’re the ones that struggle the most.”