As Washington, D.C., enacted COVID-19 shutdown orders last March, John Tran, the owner of the Vietnamese restaurant Simply Banh Mi on Wisconsin Avenue, was left scrambling as uncertainty swirled and customers disappeared.
“We pretty much immediately shut down the dining room,” Tran said in an interview with The Hoya. “We started operating entirely out of the kitchen and basement, and I started working entirely on my own. There was the constant fear of people not coming back or not coming at all due to the pandemic.”
For many small business owners in Georgetown, the memories of March 16, the day D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) first instituted the city’s shutdown orders, remain vivid. Since then, many D.C. small business owners have faced a world of uncertainties, primarily regarding whether their businesses will even survive.
The loss of usual customer flows, coupled with Georgetown’s expensive property rental rates, threaten the existence of all businesses as the pandemic continues, but small businesses, which are more vulnerable to revenue changes, are particularly at risk.
Evolving Around the Circumstances
Small businesses across the country have been shutting down in massive numbers since the pandemic began, with over 80,000 businesses permanently closing in the first five months of the pandemic. Sixty thousand of the small businesses, meaning businesses that have less than 1,500 employees, that closed were also considered local businesses, indicating the business had less than five locations.
Small businesses in D.C. have been hit especially hard. An estimated 45.9% of D.C. small businesses have closed since January 2020, according to a Harvard University and Brown University economic tracker database. Many local Georgetown restaurants have already been forced to close, including Zannchi, a Korean restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue, 1310 Kitchen and Bar, an American-style restaurant also on Wisconsin Avenue, and Peet’s Coffee on M Street.
Among the businesses affected by various shutdown orders, the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard, losing 48.1% of jobs in the first three months of the pandemic. After the initial shutdowns in March 2020, many surviving restaurants dramatically shifted their business models during the first few days of the shutdown to better cater to a pandemic.
Many businesses and restaurants based in college towns and neighborhoods suffered economically because of lack of student traffic, according to Forbes. Georgetown businesses that typically relied on student traffic had to seek new customer bases…