'Customers aren't showing up': East Bay small businesses brace for coronavirus impact

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- With the novel coronavirus stay-at-home order in effect, some small business owners are trying to find a way to stay partially open under the guidelines of what's essential -- but there is desperation.

Purell and beer -- that's not the usual combination at the Ale Industries tap room and brewery in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood.

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"Small breweries like ours, over two-thirds of our profit come from our taproom," said owner Casey Cobb. "That's what we used to keep the lights on and pay our folks. It's severely hampered."

They used painters tape to close off social distancing squares on the sidewalk and set up a table front to sell beer, hoping to eek out an existence. Total closure they say would be a death sentence for them.

"The fear is they can't pay the rent," said Oakland City Council Member Noel Gallo. "They can't pay employees and the customers aren't showing up. So those are realities."

Gallo spent the day handing out flyers in East Oakland neighborhoods detailing how to apply for unemployment, how to get help with the rent, how to access childcare.

He said his office is inundated with calls.

"Some of us have to survive and we survive in many different ways in different communities," Gallo said.

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In Walnut Creek, there is plenty of street parking in the usually bustling downtown.

People come and go from restaurants with to go orders, but the prime shopping district is a ghost town.

The police say they've had complaints from concerned citizens about businesses still opening that should not be open under the shelter in place orders.

They say they've asked those businesses to close and received compliance.
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