The Devastating Effects of Coronavirus on Atlanta Small Businesses

When the TED Talk-inspired movie “Contagion” hit movie theaters in 2011, the notion that a virus could cripple the entire world seemed like horrifying fiction. Today, the coronavirus pandemic has made it our reality.

Over the last couple of weeks, many of us have found ourselves adapting to a new norm. Working remotely. Homeschooling our children. Social distancing. Eating all our meals at the house. While this has been a bittersweet way to reconnect with our loved ones, it’s had an overwhelming (and more than likely irreversible) effect on one thing that truly makes the world go ‘round: small businesses.

Food and entertainment establishments like Midtown Moon on Piedmont have shut down operations for the most part. “We’re pretty much closed,” owner Marco Penna says.

“I have 18 employees and 25 entertainers laid off and right now it’s just myself. I’m cooking in the kitchen to make some curbside business, but we’re struggling to get some to-go orders. Unemployment hasn’t kicked in yet, so this is pretty scary. It’s gonna be a really difficult recovery for everybody.”

Gyms like Urban Body Fitness on Amsterdam Avenue are approaching one month of having their doors closed. “Yes, as of 3/19 6pm we are CLOSED!!” the gym’s website informs readers. “We do not know when the Mayor will allow us to re-open. We will see you then!”

Live shows at Lips on Buford Highway have been cancelled through the first part of April. “The show palace is temporarily closed,” their reservation hotline says, but ensures that 100% refunds are being provided until they are able to schedule their drag dining shows once again.

Restaurants like Zocalo on 10th have been eerily deserted, with no clear answer as to when they’ll reopen. “We hope you and your loved ones are staying safe during this challenging time for everyone. With guidance from the CDC and the Atlanta Public Health authorities, Zocalo will be closed for public dining effective immediately,” Zocalo’s management team informed Facebook followers on March 20.

“This closure will be in effect until further notice. Our primary interest is the safety and well-being of our guests, team members and partners, and we appreciate your understanding during this trying time.”

Upscale entertainment venue Swinging Richards halted business at the end of March, leaving nearly 50 staff members without work. “I knew that we were on the verge of being temporarily shut down,” one entertainer says.

“The only thing I’ve heard is that as soon as we’re in the clear, we’ll be reopening. I’m looking now into getting unemployment, so I know other dancers are hurting as well.”

One barber shop in South Buckhead closed up shop weeks ago, forcing clients to go elsewhere for their routine cuts and fades. Longtime patron Scott Walker says he’s resorted to getting his hair cut at his barber’s place of residence.

“He is only able to do cuts right now, on his back patio like your mom did when you were a child. He was his usual amazing self though, just more careful – with gloves and a mask on. I think if we play it safe and still take the necessary precautions, we can still find ways to earn some money during this crisis. Anything is possible!”

Lash artist Mondy Chau of Beauty by Mondy was forced to discontinue her lash extension services at the end of March, but has been trying to find the silver lining in her sudden loss of income. “I’m closed all month for the time being,” Mondy says.

“The only upside to closing my lash business is just being able to invest in better tools and supplies if possible, and practicing. Working on branding and revamping a few things. I have my lazy days where I do nothing and just miss lashing on someone … but what else can I do but practice?”

Boy Next Door Menswear is also doing its part to turn this pandemic into something a bit more positive. Just this week (despite having to close the retail store), the popular boutique launched the Give One Get One campaign, an effort dedicated to helping health care workers have more masks to use in local hospitals and nursing homes. For every mask sold, Boy Next Door will donate a second one to a medical facility in need.

When asked about his new campaign, store manager and co-owner Rocky Carroll said (in between sewing masks), “I had to wait in line for three hours to get fabric the other day, but regardless of all the bad stuff that’s going on right now, something good is coming out of it … because so many of us are joining forces to solve the problems together.” Rocky has proudly received nearly 80 orders already, and expects even more in the coming days.

As of noon on April 6, Georgia’s death toll has surpassed 200, with more than 7,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Our statewide Shelter-In-Place mandate went into effect at 6pm on April 3 in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus.

While this order requires Georgians to remain in their homes for all but “essential” activities (buying food, seeking medical care, working in critical jobs, or exercising outdoors), small businesses across the state hang on by a thread, in hopes of being able to reopen their doors sometime in the foreseeable future.