Virginia's new businesses wrestle with pandemic

Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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Many of our hometown small businesses are working to keep their doors open. But how do you do that when you haven't had a chance to open them in the first place?

Erryn Barkett says from where he's standing, the view down below is incredible.

"We are at the rooftop of 1772 in downtown Fincastle," said Barkett.

But the view ahead of him is not as clear. "I do believe the entire restaurant industry is going to change," he said. "Based upon just making the people feel safe."

He's working to open a bar and his wife's pie shop in a sweet corner spot in Fincastle. But the pandemic's unsavory effects are looming.

"I would say that we could open this bar in a month," he said. "But it will all depend on what the release standards are for businesses being able to operate under the current conditions."

They're the same conditions brewing trouble for Demarco Trent.

"When the pandemic hit, it was more like, should I wait it out?" he said.

Trent said he's been working for the last seven months to open Granny's Grill in Vinton, hoping to offer his grandmother's old recipes, for his new son's future.

"I just want him to have something really, really to smile for and once he see this and understand what's going on he's gonna be really appreciative of it, I could tell," he said.

But brand new businesses like his are ineligible for PPP loans. He wanted to wait out the pandemic, but said his rent was due. So he plans to start offering curbside meals within the week.

“I have a couple jobs for my family members and everything," Trent said. "So I just wanted to do everything like that, bring everybody together, serve the community, all one big project, and see what we could get out of it.”

According to the

, more than 40,371 Virginia businesses were approved for loans through the

, amounting to $8,721,170,223. Representatives for the SBA say they are not able to provide statewide data broken down into regions.

Additionally, according to the Small Business Development Center's Lynchburg Region team, 597 Virginia businesses qualified for the nationwide Economic Injury Disaster Loans. That added up to $125,001,400 for Virginia businesses. Stephanie Keener, executive director of the Small Business Development Center in Lynchburg, said Virginia results seem on par with the percentage of the total US Population.

She said while some new small businesses are not eligible for the PPP loan, they are still eligible for the standard 7a SBA loans. It's a program through which small businesses can borrow up to $5 million for working capital; expansion/renovation; new construction; purchase of land or buildings; purchase of equipment, fixtures; lease-hold improvements; refinancing debt for compelling reasons; seasonal line of credit; inventory; or starting a business. How much those will be prioritized during the pandemic, however, is unclear.

While the view for both men is clouded with uncertainty, their vision remains crystal clear.

“I hope that this can be a place where business can be done," Barkett said. "Where weddings can be finished, where baby showers can happen and where people can gather and just share their hopes and dreams for what happens tomorrow.”

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