Fresno-area business owners pledge to stay open regardless of county's tier

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- High Sierra Grill in Northwest Fresno is one of many businesses that could not survive the pandemic. The eight-year-old restaurant shut down in late August, with a half-million dollars' worth of furniture and equipment left inside.

Owner Manny Perales is now worried the four Yosemite Falls Cafes he co-owns could face a similar fate.

RELATED: COVID-19 updates: Fresno County remains in 'red tier,' Kings County also moves to 'red tier'

He says, "How much longer are we going to be required to have that stress and anxiety? Every two weeks now, are we going to stay in purple, are we going to stay in red, are we going to shut down? I have all this inventory again. I have 190 employees, am I going to lay them off again?"

Perales was one of several local business owners who spoke at a news conference outside Fresno City Hall organized through the Facebook group, "Open Central California Safely."

They each shared emotional stories of the impact closures and reductions have had on them, their employees, and their customers including mental and physical health concerns.

Miss Kitty's Lounge Owner Catherine Hill said, "We need to be open. I understand the safety that needs to happen. I am immune-compromised. I've been fighting cancer for a year, and COVID hit. I've been continuing to fight."

Some also pledged to stay open, regardless of the county's COVID tier or possible consequences from the state.

Pressbox Sports Grill Owner Tom Miller says, "We will not regress. We will not go back to less than 25 percent. I want to make that clear right now. Any state, local, city, and county organizations, you're not going to close us."

Lewis Everk, who owns multiple restaurants and lounges adds, "What good is having any licensing if you can't use it in your business? So for us and our employees and the families that depend on the income derived for our business, we're going to stay open."

The business owners also want different metrics to determine county tiers. They say the current system is confusing and does not consider lower numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

However, the argument in favor of the latest system is that it catches increasing numbers of COVID cases before ICU's become overwhelmed.
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