By Raiza Giorgi
The City of Solvang added an emergency item onto their meeting agenda Monday evening in relation to the recent state shutdown orders stating they will not be actively enforcing the County and State shutdown orders. In their letter to Santa Barbara County, Solvang also requested the County to prioritize education and do no enforcement within the City limits.
“The City is also unique in that nearly all businesses are small and locally owned, and with a great dependence on tourism. Even before the March 19 Executive Orders, the City was active in efforts to first contain the potential spread of COVID, then to mitigate the effects on the community, while constantly planning for economic recovery,” wrote Solvang Mayor Ryan Toussaint.
Toussaint expressed significant concerns about the latest round of business shutdowns that were expressed by residents, business representatives and the Council.
He added the “city is asking the County to move as quickly as possible to remove Santa Barbara County from yet another California “one size fits all” mistake, which will destroy our community,”.
“The community of Solvang has done a great job at being mindful, safe and responsible while keeping our local economy going during these challenging times. The current order by the State is ill-conceived, unnecessary and quite frankly negligent when it comes to protecting our community in a safe, balanced and sane manner,” Toussaint said.
The stay-at-home order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, and reportedly will last three weeks or more. The order will only be lifted when more than 15 percent of regional ICU beds are available, according to the state. Currently there are only 15 people in the ICU, and 56 in the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms in Santa Barbara County, according to county Public Health officials Tuesday morning during the COVID-19 update at the Board of Supervisors meeting. (READ THE STORY HERE FOR SUPERVISORS COVERAGE)
According to the Stay At Home order:
– Gatherings with people outside your own household are prohibited
– Retail stores, including grocery stores, and shopping centers can stay open with 20 percent capacity.
– Restaurants can be open for takeout and delivery only, no in-person dining
– Bars, wineries and breweries must close
– Places of worship can only hold outdoor services
– Personal care services (hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, barbershops) must close
– Museums, zoos, and aquariums must close
– Movie theaters and family entertainment centers are to close
– Offices can be open for essential workers, but remote work is encouraged
– Medical and dental care, child care, and essential work can continue.
– Schools can stay open if they are currently operating and have waivers, but the state is discouraging new openings if a county has a novel coronavirus case rate of 14 per 100,000 residents or higher
The Star reached out to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department to see if they will be enforcing the shutdown to which they responded, “The Sheriff’s Office approach to health order violations will be to make every effort to use discretion, education and encouragement to achieve voluntary compliance, but enforcement options will remain a tool to be used in cases of repeat or egregious violations that endanger public safety,” said Raquel Zick, public information officer.
Thus far, Sheriffs in Riverside County, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County have all announced that they will not be enforcing the restrictions.
Tuesday afternoon San Luis Obispo Sheriff Ian Parkinson said his department will continue its mission to focus on significant criminal matters. Deputies will not be making traffic/pedestrian stops to determine the comings and goings of citizens during this time. We will not be responding to calls for service based solely on non-compliance with the new order.
One Solvang business owner said that this shutdown might be the death of her business. She decided to remain anonymous, but said “My business didn’t quality for forgivable loans because we didn’t have employees and we are already paying loans that we can barely pay so we couldn’t take on more. Therefore we received no help during the first shutdown and had to rely on the savings I was so adamant about putting aside. The savings are now gone and we are unable to close without closing forever,”.
“I’ve felt like the aid was only geared towards medium and large sized businesses leaving the smallest businesses to fend for themselves. I was also not awarded any unemployment while we were closed leaving me and my family in a very bad position,” she added.
In Solvang there have been several businesses that have closed permanently including a restaurant, a wine tasting shop; and a European design shop, according to Solvang Chamber Executive Director Tracy Beard.
Beard later added Tuesday that while the sentiment is well intentioned from the city, businesses with a liquor license such as wine tasting and breweries cannot open unless for retail only, and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is doing compliance checks.
“The chamber does not wish to see anyone lose their license. The chamber does not advocate for any wine tasting room to open for tasting, carry out only as retail,” Beard said.
The City of Solvang did have a micro-loan program of $5,000 specifically for Solvang business earlier this year, to which owners gave good feedback in past council meetings.
City Manager Xenia Bradford updated there were 53 micro loans issued, and 35 have paid it back in full, with 16 making payments and two not paid anything back yet.
“We are currently not actively re-using paid back funds to issue additional loans. Depending on the economic situation, status of State and Federal assistance programs, and the stay at home order restrictions, this item may be brought back to Council for re-consideration,” Bradford added.
The Star did a social media poll if people agreed with or against the latest round of shutdowns to which more than 75 percent were not in agreement.
To watch the City of Solvang’s meeting visit their YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hralfp2fczE.
The Star also reached out to the City of Buellton to see if they will be doing something similar to Solvang, to which City Manager Scott Wolfe said they will be talking about the shutdown order at their regular meeting on Thursday. They will be seating the new council and giving Councilman Art Mercado a certificate for his service to the city.