Small businesses suffer as government mandates closures

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The coronavirus pandemic is more than just a health crisis, it’s also an economic crisis – and many small businesses are in the crosshairs.

It’s the result of nonessential businesses which the Commonwealth ordered to close. Eyewitness News reporter Mark Hiller takes looks at the impact the restrictions are having in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

To put matters into perspective, downtown Wilkes-Barre restaurants and retailers alone combine for roughly $80 million in center city commerce. Because of coronavirus concerns, these businesses are already feeling the pinch.

It’s a startling site in downtown Wilkes-Barre in these strange times of business restrictions caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. Closed signs have replaced crowds. And even for businesses that are open…

“Today I would say a rough estimate we are probably down 85 percent,” Christian Switzer, owner of City Market and Cafe, said.

City Market and Cafe is still doing walk-in and take-out but Switzer is experiencing a challenge the likes of which he’s never before seen in his four years of ownership.

“I am trying to brainstorm but it’s not like anyone is taking big catering orders at the moment so you know for us it’s not business as usual,” Switzer said.

“I think everyone right now is scrambling to figure out how to adapt to what is a new normal,” Diamond City Partnership Executive Larry Newman said.

Newman has been busy tallying up which businesses are open and to what extent. His concern is unprecedented for downtown business.

“What goes into the cash registers one week is going out the next week to pay employees, to pay for supplies, to pay taxes, to pay rent and that is not going to be happening for any businesses for the foreseeable future,” Newman said.

“Well, it’s going to hurt small businesses you know if nobody is coming out and buying and they may end up closing down,” Ron Walsh of Wilkes-Barre said.

Newman points out 800 workers and their employers are impacted in center city and that those people will need the government’s help sooner rather than later.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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