Georgia's plan to reopen some businesses and stimulate the economy is not going as planned for many establishments. According to a report by Bis Now, Georgia retailers and recreational venues are finding that, in many cases, business is too slow to justify opening shop at all. While business owners may be anxious to return to public spaces, it looks like consumers are not.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has been widely criticized for allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen, in the hope that it would stymie the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Even health experts seemed to fear that Kemp's reopening would lead to a flood of people returning to public places, and for many businesses, that has not been the case. For example, Bis Now spoke to Mario Zelaya, CEO of Bad Axe, a company that owns 40 axe-throwing ranges, including one in Georgia that just reopened. He said that he hoped the reopening would draw at least 10 percent of the usual weekend crowd, but even there, he was disappointed.
"That was the worst-case scenario, especially with all the marketing we did," he said. "The reopening weekend was a disaster. We had two customers all weekend."
Zelaya felt that part of the issue was public distrust. According to a poll run by CBS News, most Americans are worried that the economy will open too soon and the outbreak will get worse, which public health officials warn is true. Zelaya speculated that this led to a distrust of any business that opened under Kemp's order.
"I think every small-business owner is in the same position as we are where they're nervous, and they're worried, and they're scared of public backlash," he said. "Our only decision right now is to survive. We'll take measures to ensure that."
Bis Now also spoke to Georgia restaurant owners, retail managers and commercial landlords, all of whom seemed to feel that reopening would not be worth the risk it entails — both in terms of health crisis and public backlash. Some even said that their landlords were offering them deals on rent, lowering the pressure to open back up. Leo Weiner, president of a commercial real estate firm called Ackerman & Co., said that they only collected about 50 percent of rent in April, and they plan to continue to do so in May.
"At this point, it just doesn't make business sense to push a tenant open. I've got to trust that the restaurateur knows their customer," he said. "I just think it's too early for landlords to start pushing tenants." For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.