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Retail and restaurant owners begin to reopen in Kern County

Posted at 5:41 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 21:03:59-04

Many local restaurants and retail businesses are breathing a sigh of relief now that they have received the green light from the state of California. 23ABC’s Tori Cooper spoke with some of the local businesses about how the first day of reopening went.

Downtown Bakersfield came alive as locals can now dine in at their favorite local restaurant or shop at their favorite local retailers. Business owners said they were doing their best to follow all of the state and county guidelines.

Toss It Salad Bar owner Gabby Gonzalez was overwhelmed with excitement Thursday afternoon now that she could officially return to in-room dining services.

“At the very beginning it was tough. It was really brutal. So we’re re-open! We’re following all of the social guidelines like separating the chairs. We have outdoor seating.”

Gonzalez said she has been using a print out from the governor's website to ensure her business is ready to reopen. She said all employees working are required to stay home if they are sick, and she is checking her employee's temperatures before they clock on.

“We’re wearing the masks as we’re working. Also gloves. We are sanitizing surfaces more frequently than usual.”

Along with sanitizing high traffic areas, Gonzalez said she is thoroughly cleaning the dining area after each customer.

Local House of Talula boutique owner Chris Ludwig and Gonzalez said they are both minimizing the number of people inside their establishments while offering other hands-free payment methods to help maintain the six feet apart rule.

Retailers like House of Talula are also limiting the number of active dressing rooms and sanitizing garments.

Thursday during a press conference county officials said they do not know how many businesses may not be able to re-open due to the economic impact. But the county said they are aiming to help small businesses first.

We are going to focusing this financial assistance on small businesses that have been affected under the governor's orders," said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. "Local small businesses can start applying next week for support funding."

According to the state’s guidelines, businesses are asked to “communicate frequently to customers that they should use face coverings” but it does not say that customers are “required” to wear a mask.

As for Gonzalez she says the biggest challenge is just going to be getting customers to feel safe and encouraged again to dine in.

"We just need to get the word out there and let customers know that we’re open, you’re welcome to come in!”

There are still a number of local businesses that the county is still waiting to grant the green light too and they say it all depends on how quickly the state moves to phase three.

Businesses uncertain about what they need to do to re-open can read the full guidelines on the governor's website. That guidance includes:

Before reopening, all facilities should:

  1. Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan
  2. Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them
  3. Implement individual control measures and screenings
  4. Implement disinfecting protocols
  5. Implement physical distancing guidance