For some, lifted shutdown order doesn’t change things much, but for businesses that had no choice, a big deal

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The governor’s decision to lift the statewide stay-at-home order and return to the colored-tier system of pandemic management will be a cause for concern for some and a great relief to others. But for Californians who have managed to continue visiting their favorite restaurants, bars and stores despite the ordered shutdown, the gut response may be more like, “So what? What is really changing here?

If you desperately need a haircut — or desperately need to start giving them again — the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order is good news. Hair salons and other personal care businesses may reopen with now-familiar restrictions like masks and distancing.

But for others, the loosening of restrictions amid tentative signs of relief in the fight against COVID-19 may not mean much. Many restaurants closed only briefly if at all during the lockdown — and many even continue to allow indoor dining, which is still a violation under Newsom’s newly announced purple tier restrictions.

Why have some of those businesses ignored the state restrictions? Perhaps because, as 34th District Assemblyman Vince Fong said Monday, the restrictions have seemed arbitrary, unsupported by data and issued without transparency.

“In a time of crisis, this is the time to bring the public along, and allow them to see everything,” Fong said. “We need more communication, not less. We need more clarity, not less. We need more transparency, not less. If the governor allowed us to see everything, the public would be able to come to a conclusion that these decisions are either based in some form of science and facts, or not.”

State Sen. Shannon Grove said much the same thing on Twitter Monday, criticizing the governor’s use of what she called “secret data.”

“Convenient timing for @GavinNewsom to pull back on statewide restrictions using his secret data,” Grove wrote. “Californians and their livelihoods are not political pawns and they deserve transparency from this Governor and his administration. #ShowUsTheData.”

The dilemma for the governor is that penalizing businesses that have remained open during the lockdown by — for example, suspending liquor licenses — also hurts workers, further stressing the state unemployment benefit pool and the eviction relief program, which the state extended for five additional months monday.

Cassie Bittle of KC Steakhouse, which cut back during the lockdown but did not shut down, says employees’ jobs are worth saving.

“I think that everybody kind of needs to do whatever’s best for their employees and their situation,” she said. “And I think you’ve seen that across Kern County and California in general. There’s many restaurants opening up in Fresno and you’ve seen the fines that their city has given those businesses. And the same statement comes out of all of their mouths — they’re doing it for their employees and to make sure that everybody’s able to earn a living.”

Phil Burks, who owns eight Bakersfield-area Great Clips hair salons and employed 72 stylists prior to the pandemic, says the important thing is that he is re-opening, in phases, starting with two salons Tuesday.

“We’re happy as heck to be back for the third time,” he said. “Well, fourth time — we’ve been closed three times. Our employees are happy to be getting paychecks. We’re just working like heck to get back to normal.”

So, though it may not matter all that much to business owners who decided to stay open in some capacity during the lockdown, at least for the benefit of their staffs, the governor’s easing of restrictions Monday most certainly does matter for others that had no choice.”

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