Sanger business owners trying to stay afloat during new shutdown order

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- One by one, Matt Velasco readies takeout orders from his kitchen.

"I can do this by myself, but if I get slammed then I start to get worried," said Velasco.

This is the new normal for him and what remains of his staff at Velasco's Mexican Restaurant in Sanger.

The hustle and bustle that came with the weekends has been replaced with sporadic orders that just don't cut it.

According to Velasco, business is down between 30 to 40 percent.

"Before COVID, our business was the best that it had ever been. It actually seemed like we hit the top and then COVID happened, and we just nosedived," said Velasco.

When restrictions loosened up and dine in services became available, things picked up again.

But the governor's latest order to re-close all dine-in services has been a tough pill to swallow for him and his customers.

"We have gotten at least 20 different calls already asking if we are doing dine-in," he said.

As business readjusts to the new regulations, city officials are doing what they can to help them.

That includes turning their code enforcement team into educators.

"Definitely the purpose is to educate businesses through this and the enforcement side of their name, that is a last resort," said Bret Harmon, Sanger's acting city manager.

As of Thursday, the city of Sanger sat at nearly 530 cases.

In town, there are two testing sites, including a free clinic at their community center.

Harmon says cases for Sanger aren't just reflective of city limits, but also the surrounding areas.

He adds they have seen spikes after holidays and major events involving gatherings.

"We are hoping the community really listens and downsizes that or eliminates that from their practices right now," said Harmon.

City officials are currently working on a temporary use permit that would allow restaurants to move their dine in services to sidewalks and other public spaces.

They're expected to release more information on that in the upcoming week.
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