SAN JOSE — A number of downtown San Jose merchants are edging towards permanent shutdowns amid widening business restrictions imposed by the government to combat the coronavirus, a new survey shows.

The San Jose Downtown Association in recent days began polling its members to attempt to assess their viability and sample their views about several issues related to the ongoing response to the spread of the coronavirus.

The association received responses from 44 members and determined that more than four of every 10 merchants that replied to the survey might be just a few months away from closing their doors for good.

“We are not trying to scare people,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “We are trying to alert them as to how dire the situation is.”

The survey found that 19 out of 44 respondents, or 43%, replied that they would be able to remain in business for no more than three months, according to the Downtown Association.

An estimated 34 respondents, or 77%, said they would be able to keep their doors open for no more than one year.

“People don’t really understand the sense of urgency,” Knies said.

The types of businesses that responded were mostly restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops, according to the association.

Also responding: non-profits; gyms and fitness centers; entertainment sites, nightclubs, and bars; arts organizations; financing services firms; and personal services providers.

The respondents offered numerous factors for the coronavirus-linked predicaments they face.

Among the factors:

— Lost revenue due to a lack of customers downtown and stay-at-home orders

— Efforts to adapt to protocols or pivot the business have made it tougher to keep up with rent, utilities, and payroll

— Government inaction, interference, and changing direction or strategy

— Outdoor dining closure isn’t necessary

— Takeout only is not enough

— Savings are drying up

— Employees are afraid to work.

State and local government agencies, alarmed by spikes in coronavirus cases, have imposed severe restrictions on business operations that could imperil the viability of merchants in downtown San Jose and other California cities.

“We want to be positive and hopeful, but we also need to be pragmatic,” Knies said. “Not enough people realize how vulnerable small businesses are right now.”

 

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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