By Raiza Giorgi


Harlan Munneke has owned and operated the Mole Hole in Solvang for more than 25 years. His business has been closed for more than a month and he is ready to reopen, with social distancing of course. 

“I wanted to be at this rally because there are businesses like mine who have had to close. Luckily part of my business can go online and we have been selling somewhat through Amazon, but not everyone can do this,” Munneke said. 

Munneke said that 60 percent of his business is done at his brick and mortar location on the corner of Mission Drive and First Street. He luckily has gotten the Payment Protection Program and Small Business Administration loans to keep his six local employees paid through this time, but he knows of so many other local businesses that haven’t gotten any assistance. 

Roughly 40 people attended the Reopen Santa Ynez Valley rally on Friday, May 1, in Solvang Park. There were families there holding up signs and American Flags in support of the statewide Reopen California rallies. Many people who drove down Mission Drive honked in support of reopening, and there were several that gave a thumbs down and yelled “I don’t want to die,” from their vehicles. About half of the crowd wore face masks, but for the most part tried to stay six feet apart. 

From Sacramento to San Diego, thousands of people gathered to peacefully protest Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay at home order, which is still in effect. Newsom has alluded to reopening some businesses within the coming days, but hasn’t specified much in his noontime press briefings. 

“This is what it means of being an American to express your beliefs in a peaceful way. I think the Governor should give control back to the local jurisdictions to make the best decisions for our area. We need to open business, but do it in a safe manner. People want and need to get back to work and we can figure that out,” said Solvang Councilman Daniel Johnson. 

Johnson, and most of the Solvang City Council, recently voted 4 – 1 (with Councilwoman Karen Waite dissenting) to send a letter to the Governor asking for local control. 

People on the SYV Chat room on Facebook scoffed at the protestors saying they were upset they all didn’t wear face masks, however one of those in attendance said she called the Solvang Sheriff’s substation to see if they were required to before the rally, and the Sheriff’s responded that being outside in the open did not require use of a face mask.

Santa Barbara County Public Health officer Henning Ansorg also stated on Friday, May 1 at their press briefing that masks have little to no evidence of stopping the spread. Only social distancing and regular washing of hands is proven to slow the spread. 

The Santa Ynez Valley has now six confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one new case reported Saturday, May 2. This is the one new case in the valley in more than a month. In total, Santa Barbara County which has a population of 446,499 residents (2019 statistics), there have been 508 confirmed cases as of Saturday, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health. That is roughly 0.0011 percent of the population testing positive. There have been eight deaths.

Of the 508 cases, 397 have fully recovered, 65 are recovering at home, 34 are recovering in the hospital with 14 of those in the ICU. Four cases are pending an update. 

Of the four new cases, one is in the valley, two are from the City of Santa Barbara and one is in Lompoc. 

“We have stayed home and we have not only flattened the curve, we have bent it,” Munneke stated. “The purpose of staying at home was to help ease the burden off the healthcare system and local governments to give time to prepare. Our hospitals are empty,”. 

“I have three businesses that are closed, and they are not going to reopen because of this. I have six others that have about two weeks left before they close and they haven’t have any funding,” said Tracy Beard, executive director for the Solvang Chamber of Commerce. 

Beard has been working around the clock with volunteers to help local businesses apply for funding with the SBA through the Economic Development Center. They are helping people find assistance with food resources to business loan and grant opportunities. 

The City of Solvang has also stepped up and given $250,000 in micro loans to Solvang businesses. Johnson said that several have already paid their debt back which was then loaned out to another business. 

Solvang also announced Saturday they opened a PPP program Saturday, and if you are a Solvang based business, have not yet received a PPP Loan from another lender and are eligible, please click here to express interest.

“We have a limited number of funds and if you are selected to apply, you will receive a link to the SBA application,” said City Manager Xenia Bradford in a statement. 

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Please visit Santa Barbara County’s coronavirus web page for other preparedness resources and updates at