Time to Sensibly Re-Open — Small Businesses and Racetracks May Depend on It
ARC Lanes in Ada, Minn., like many small businesses in smaller communities, has been hit hard financially by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The business — a bowling alley/restaurant in Ada — is owned by Brenda Wagner. Her children, Andy and Ashley, work there. Andy Wagner drives the No. 3X IMCA Sport Mod at Norman County Raceway and at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo.
ARC Lanes went to take-out food only on March 18. Since that time, Andy Wagner estimates business is down 45-50 percent. If you include the lost revenue from bowling — which includes leagues that were unfinished and usage by schools for physical education classes — that number is closer to 60 percent.
ARC is far from the only small business hurting, but restaurants and bars are among to be the hardest hit in terms of retail. Kyle Schell, the owner of the Pizza Ranch in Lisbon, N.D., says business has been impacted as well, and he’s had to cut back on staff. The dining area will open next week but the buffet won’t at this point.
This blog isn’t taking the Covid-19 crisis lightly, nor the 90,000 people who have died from it. It’s tragic. However, almost half the cases in the country are from nursing home/long term care facilities and almost all the cases (there are exceptions) are people with serious or chronic pre-existing health conditions. And if these restrictions set by state governments were meant to protect those people, well it hasn’t worked. But that’s another blog.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that restaurants and bars can re-open on June 1 on a very limited basis. Limited may be an understatement. Restaurants are allowed to host outdoor seating only (up to 50 people). Reservations are required. No indoor seating yet. I’m not sure that is going to help restaurants financially all that much, to be honest. And what about those businesses that don't have outdoor seating capbility? And why is there one policy for the whole state when it should be different based on population?
According to the Forum, in Minnesota “gyms and fitness centers, theaters, bowling alleys, churches and other places of amusement would have to wait. Plans to allow bigger social gathering spaces to reopen would likely come later in the summer.” That would include racetracks. Which is why that announcement was beyond disappointing to me.
For some, that’s too little, too late. And for some these restrictions are going too far and lasting too long. It’s destroying businesses and livelihoods. Which is why some — and I emphasize some — are pissed off at Gov. Walz and his latest decisions. Especially those in outstate Minnesota. Some will agree with everything he has done, I do not.
The larger gatherings, by the way, would include racetracks. Many of which are located on county/city property. In somestates, where the states have eased restrictions, local governments — county and city boards, park and rec. boards, etc. — make the call on deciding whether a track races or not, or which restrictions are in place. In many cases, the track wants to race and is willing to do things to be vigilant about the virus but the city or county is the one holding up things.
I’m a libertarian on most issues but I understand the public health aspect to this. I happen to believe people can protect themselves from this virus and still have somewhat normal functioning of their lives. You know, washing hands, wearing masks at public venues, covering your mouth when you sneeze, stay home if you are sick, staying six feet away from people…you get the drift. Some of that is common sense. The virus isn’t going to go away no matter how many restrictions you take and a vaccine is many months away.
For those who think we who want to see things re-opened and don't care about life, that is nonsense. You don't automatically endanger people if you re-open businesses and practice social distancing and proper cleaning habits. If you think there should be a shelter-in-place for many more months, that is totally your right and you are welcome to live your life that way. That's what freedom is about.
Plus, in the end, we should be protecting the most vulnerable in this — the elderly, which have been hit hard in spite of these restrictions, those who have chronic illnesses. I don’t think that means totally handcuffing businesses and individuals. A balance is needed.
We also need to contact our elected officials -- state and local about easing restrictions and letting us take personal responsibility for our own health. Not just for the racetracks — which the ones who I think have figured out how to practice good Covid-19 spread prevention — but for the small businesses who are suffering and impacted by these restrictions.