St. Joseph businesses in peril as emergency order takes effect

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By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

An emergency order calling for non-essential St. Joseph
businesses to close will cripple those businesses and a business leader says
some might never re-open.

St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President Patt Lilly is
concerned about the viability of some businesses as COVID-19 shuts down much of
the economy.

“In spite of all the talk in Washington relative to stimulus
and bailouts and so on and so forth, I think we all understand that the reality,
at least I will speak from a St. Joseph perspective, is that there are going to
be a number of businesses that don’t make it through this,” Lilly tells St.
Joseph Post.

Lilly says some business owners have told him they cannot make
it through two weeks; some cannot survive if the coronavirus threat lasts two
months. A city emergency ordinance calls for only essential businesses to
remain through April 2nd.

Lilly says it will be difficult for some businesses to
survive, even if the federal government offers disaster loans.

“When I’ve had a chance to talk to some of the small
businesses and more recently during the flood when the same kind of disaster
loans were being offered, most of them said, hey, I don’t have any debt and
that’s how I make it. What I do is I pay as I go. I can’t afford to take on debt,”
according to Lilly. “So that really doesn’t do me any good. Those are the kind
of challenges that small businesses face.”

Lilly says restaurants and bars which can no longer offer
dine-in service are attempting alternatives simply to survive.

“Those businesses are trying to do what they can to literally allow
for some income and the ability to pay some of their employees and while there
has been a lot of rallying around that, how long will that last?” Lilly asks. “You
know, the Chamber has created a website that connects the community to some of
these restaurants so that people can use them to order food and what have you,
but again I just wonder how long people are going to continue to do that.”

The emergency order went into effect after midnight Monday. It
runs through April 2nd.