Gym owners, salons react to California coronavirus rollbacks

Business owners are reacting to California's reversal of re-opening due to rising COVID-19 trends. 

"Out of the blue, here is Newsom dropping the bomb, we have to close immediately, and I'm very upset,"  said gym owner Adam Kovacs. "This is like the biggest nightmare for every business."

Weighing lives against livelihoods, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced major rollbacks.

Not allowed anywhere in the state: indoor dining, bars, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theatres, zoos, museums and card rooms. 

And for the 30 counties on a state watch-list, even more closures: fitness facilities, hair salons, barbershops, worship services, shopping malls and non-essential offices.  These counties make up about 80 percent of California's population. 

Kovacs owns three North Bay gyms, two of which were allowed to re-open in mid-June, only to be ordered shuttered again. 

"Everything is out of our control, yet we're at the mercy of the lawmakers," fumed Kovacs, as gym members wrapped up their final workouts at his Petaluma location. 

Many business owners have been watching the infection rate rise, and anticipating the closures.

"It's a yo-yo but it's not unexpected," said Natalie Cilurzo, who founded Russian River Brewing with her husband Vinnie. 

Their Windsor brewpub was already take-out only. 

Their downtown Santa Rosa location was already phasing out its dining room even before the state order, because it was clear Sonoma County would be added to the watch-list.

"Indoor dining was going extremely well, it was totally worth it being open, even at reduced capacity," said Cilurzo.

On 4th Street, in front of the brewpub, Russian River will expand from five outdoor tables to fifteen.

The shutdown of the street makes that possible, but the Cilurzos regret having to furlough staff they just brought back.

Before the pandemic, they employed more than 200 people at their brewery and restaurant operations- now about half that.    

"Most important in all of this, is it really affects our employees and they're being hit the hardest by this whole thing," said Cilurzo. 

Monday afternoon, hair salons and barbershops squeezed in their last clients for awhile. 

"I will be working late tonight, and then canceling appointments for the next few weeks and see what happens after that," said Nina Husen, owner of the Mitchell Thomas Salon in downtown Novato.

Husen bought her salon just before the pandemic, but it ended up guiding every decision. 

"It's a COVID baby, this is my COVID baby," she said wryly. 

For three weeks since opening, Husen has worked 10-hour days, all the while knowing the door could swing shut. 

"Understanding that it was coming, and wondering when," Husen admitted. "And I don't believe it's the salon environment that's spreading this virus, evidence shows it's the young population." 

Kovacs was even more blunt: "Everyone is doing their part, everyone, and who is not? The people who are out there partying, that's what keeps me up at night."   

Sonoma Fit abides by state guidelines: rigorous sanitizing, limited occupancy, health check on entry, masks while moving about the gym, and exercise equipment positioned to allow physical distance. 

Now, fitness classes will shift outdoors, and Kovacs is infuriated by the continued uncertainty.  

"How can I prepare for Newsom dropping a bomb like this?" complained Kovacs. "We cannot prepare for this and it's costing us jobs and members." 

As the pandemic pendulum swings, it tests everyone.

"I don't have a lot of control over the situation, but I can control how I react," said Cilurzo, explaining she tries to be resilient and positive, even during setbacks. "We try to show our employees we are going to do this, we'll get through it, we don't know how but we'll figure it out."