Coronavirus: From the LA Port to the Inland Empire, small businesses seeing decline

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (KABC) -- As local events and gatherings are canceled in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, local small businesses are feeling the economic impact.

"Basically 95% of my business is airport transportation," said Patrick Paige with Ride-n-Relax.

But lately, Paige's thriving livery service has fallen flat due in large part to fear over COVID-19.

"In the last three weeks especially, it's taken a big drop. I'd say like 60-70% of my business has slowed down, the calls have stopped," said Paige.

In Rowland Heights, restaurants are also seeing a drop in foot traffic, especially at many of its Asian-owned eateries.

"For dim sum time people used to line up out the door, wait 30-40 minutes to get in," explained Edward Cai, owner of Happy Harbor Restaurant.

On Monday, the lunch rush was more of a trickle. There was no wait time and the normally reserved VIP rooms for business lunches and dinners sat empty.

"We need to survive, to try as much as possible to keep all the employees working here and not lay off anyone," said Cai. "Because they are family, they have kids so we need to keep them to work here."

At the Port of Los Angeles, workers there are also feeling the slowdown.

"First we had the trade war, which was severely affecting our volumes and now with that comes the coronavirus. We are now looking at 25% volume decline in February vs. February of 2019," said Philip Sanfield, spokesman with Port of Los Angeles.

Sanfield said the impact will mean less work at the port, rippling out to other jobs.

"So we are seeing less truckers working. We are seeing less longshoremen, less warehouse people throughout the Inland Empire," he said.

The fear factor has business organizations like the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership encouraging people to take precautions but not abandon their local small businesses.

"Be careful but don't stop what you are doing on a daily basis. From going to our local restaurants, going to our local business establishments, because those folks really depend on regional population to stay afloat," said Bill Manis with the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership.

While health officials try to contain and mitigate the virus, business owners are being told to keep a close eye out on developments and to communicate their plans to their employees and customers.
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