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From the Experts Public Health Restaurants Small Business

How to Enjoy this Holiday Season Safely

Happy Holidays!


The holiday season has fastly approached and many people are deciding how they are going to spend their holidays this year. As much as we all want to partake in many of our traditional holiday celebrations it is important that we all remain following the CDC guidelines regarding the coronavirus. We all want to spend time with our families and friends but we also need to limit the amount of contact with people to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The recent trends in cases mean we need to make changes to our traditional holiday celebrations to keep everyone around us safe. This year instead of dining-in at a restaurant consider take-out to help reduce any possible transmissions of coronavirus or try to utilize virtual options of holiday activities instead of face-to-face holiday activities. We have compiled a few activities that are safe and fun for your whole family to enjoy. 

One fun option of holiday festivities you can do with the people you love while still staying safe is to grab some food and go to an activity nearby.

For a lot of people, going to look at Christmas lights is a must-do during the holidays. Viewing the decorations of the beautiful colors from bright lights during a starry brisk night always fills your heart with the meaning of Christmas. This activity could be a little difficult to attend, especially if you don’t want to be in a crowd of people. But don’t worry there are still drive-through light shows to attend, one in particular called Winter Lights Festival in Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This show is a completely socially distanced event where you will be in the comfort of your own vehicle! It consists of over 450 intricate light displays and enchanting lit trees that go on for 3.5 miles. It will last between November 27 to December 31 so go while you can!  All of the tickets are only available online at the moment so make sure you visit their website to purchase tickets and more information. Right before you go, you should pick up dinner from Peter Chang, the restaurant is 15 minutes away from the Winter Lights Festival and follows all of the CDC guidelines that keep you safe. They only do to-go orders, and make it easy for you to make online orders through their website and walk in to pick it up. Peter Chang is a Szechuan cuisine restaurant and some of their signature dishes include, soup steam pork buns, crispy pork belly, duck in a stone pot, beef in Sichuan chili, dry-fried eggplant, and chicken with onion & chili. Grab some food from Peter Chang and take the time to stop by and drive through the Winter Lights Festival while enjoying some authentic Szechuan cuisine with some family, friends, or on a nice date with your significant other. 

If you’re looking for a cozy night in, we have the perfect plan for you. If you and your friends enjoy binge watching shows and movies, but due to COVID are limited to social distancing, we recommend Netflix Party. This is a chrome extension that allows you to interact with your friends while using netflix to make it possible for you to connect from the comfort of your own home. You can interact by typing in the chat box as your show or movie is playing. It will broadcast the show or movies onto the screens of those who have decided to watch.To plan out your netflix party, we recommend getting together with some of your closest friends and creating a theme for the night. For the holidays coming up, we recommend the classics, like “How the Grinch stole Christmas,” or “Klaus” for a more family centered focus. To pair with your movie we recommend doing some research into the show to see the variety of foods they plan to eat. Now is a great time to order out and support your local business. Through apps like Doordash, Uber eats, and many more, you are able to support these businesses and drivers from your own bed. It is recommended that you maintain a six-feet distance from and when choosing to carry out or have contactless delivery, you are still able to enjoy the same meals now just in the comfort of your own home. 

Another fun activity to spend time with family and friends this holiday season to grab takeout food and eat together while staying socially distanced.

Great places to meet your friends and family include meeting at a family or friend’s home that allows for safe social distancing or an outdoor area such as a park. In order to keep this gathering and everyone safe, you should limit the number of people in attendance and wear a mask unless you are eating. The CDC recommends that people who decide to partake in this type of holiday gathering bring their own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils. Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse D.C. is a great option to pick up take out if you are interested in a safe restaurant that follows all COVID-19 safety measures. Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse offers menu items including steaks, seafood, chicken, and more while also keeping their customers and staff safe during this pandemic. Another great and safe option for takeout in the DC area is The Fancy Radish. The Fancy Radish is a vegetable-based restaurant. In addition to their wide variety of vegetarian-based food options, The Fancy Radish also offers wine and cocktails to go. Spending time with family and friends can still be an option this holiday season but it may seem a little bit different. The CDC also recommends having a conversation with guests before you have an event to set expectations for the holiday celebration.  

If looking to play the holiday extra safe – another wholesome feast option is meal kits. Meal kits are overall well-rounded to minimize virus exposure because they allow for purchasing the kits ahead of time, while calling for cooking and preparations at home. This is a perfect sister-activity to traditional takeout methods – where the family can spend some quality time together preparing a safe, personalized meal. Centrolina (D.C.) offers holiday packages that may be delivered straight to your door. The popular restaurant options include a Chef’s Market Basket, consisting of spaghetti, pizza dough, and sauce. Centrolina also offers a Holiday-Cookie Box extravaganza, perfect for the family member with a sweet tooth. On the flip side, the Centrolina restaurant website offers another great option for non-traditional takeout – recipes for popular dinner dishes with video-tutorials. 

This leads into a final option for non-traditional takeout, virtual D.C. based do-it-yourself tasting options. These options are perfect for those looking to tap into their taste-tester abilities. Holiday options are available for wine-drinking connoisseurs. D.C.’s own District Winery is offering a unique alternative to partying this year by promoting their wine through virtual taste testings, including blending classes as well. These virtual events bring out the inner-party planner, while adhering to safe practices and risk mitigation.

Links: 

Winter Lights Festival: https://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/recreation/special-events/winter-lights-festival

Peter Chang: https://peterchangarlington.com/learn/

Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse: https://www.ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/washington-dc-3/

The Fancy Radish: https://www.fancyradishdc.com/

Centrolina & DC area Meal Kits: https://www.thrillist.com/eat/washington-dc/best-meal-kits-washington-dc-restaurants-dishes-to-go 

Centrolina: https://www.centrolinadc.com/store 

District Winery Wine Tasting: https://districtwinery.com/virtual-wine-tasting-event 

Categories
Finance Small Business

The Impact of the Cares Act on Your Small Business

~Michael Derouin

 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act include provisions to help businesses cover critical operating costs and provide tax relief as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We have summarized the important points of the CARES Act and compiled key resources for your business.

 

Paycheck Protection Program

The CARES Act provides federally guaranteed loans to small businesses to cover business operating costs for eight weeks. These loans may be fully forgiven (including interest) if the small business uses the loan proceeds for payroll costs (including benefits), mortgage interest, rent and/or utilities while maintaining their payroll during the crisis. Small businesses interested in this program should contact their local Small Business Administration lender, federally insured depository institution, or federally insured credit union to get more detailed information. 

 

Employee Retention Tax Credit

The CARES Act provides a refundable payroll tax credit up to $5,000 per eligible employee for businesses impacted by COVID-19. 

The credit is available to employers whose:

  • Operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19-related shutdown order. 

     OR 

  • Gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the prior calendar year.

If there are fewer than 100 full-time employees, the business may claim the tax credit on the wages of all employees.

 

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

The CARES Act expands eligibility for access to Economic Injury Disaster Loans to include Tribal businesses, cooperatives, and ESOPs with fewer than 500 employees, or any individual operating as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor during the covered period (Jan. 31, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020). For eligible businesses that have applied for an EIDL loan due to COVID-19, the Act also establishes an Emergency Grant enabling the business to request up to a $10,000 advance of that loan. This can be forgiven if used to:

  • Provide paid sick leave to employees
  • Maintain payroll Meet increased material costs
  • Make rent or mortgage payments Repay obligations that cannot be met due to revenue losses

 

Sick and Family Leave Tax Credits

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act establishes credits for sick and family leave costs for businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
  •  Businesses are eligible to receive refundable tax credits to help offset the costs associated with providing sick and family leave. Refundable credits are also available for businesses with no employees (e.g., sole proprietors).

 

Understanding Which Benefits Your Business Can Use

It’s important to note that certain provisions described above cannot be used in conjunction with others. Some considerations when determining which programs to use:

  •  The same wages cannot qualify for both the sick and family leave tax credits and the Paycheck Protection Program. 
  • The same business costs cannot be covered by both the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Disaster Loans. 
  • The same wages cannot qualify for both the sick and family leave tax credits and the employee retention tax credit. 
  • You must choose between the Paycheck Protection Program or the employee retention tax credit and deferral of payment of employer payroll taxes – you may not choose both.

Benefits generally limited to employers with up to 499 employees (also for self-employed individuals):

  •  Sick and family leave tax credits. 
  • The Paycheck Protection Program. 
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). 

Benefits not limited by employer size (generally also available to self-employed individuals) include:

  • An employee retention tax credit. 
  • The deferral of payment of employer payroll taxes.

 

Categories
Retail Small Business

What does Reopening of American Small Business Look Like?

Living in an Alternate Reality

How will small retail businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic?

If three months ago small retail owners were told they would lose virtually all their customers overnight and it may take up to a year or more to get these customers back, they would not have believed it. They would have said that their business would be forced to close if this was the case.

Yet this is the current reality.  

Most retail operates are on razor-thin profit margins when times are good. How can they hope to survive the new normal? The answer lies in how quickly they can regain customers as the country begins to “reopen.” Simply hoping that customers will come back is not the answer.

Today, most small retail businesses are closed and those fortunate enough to be considered “essential” are facing a significant drop in customers. Once busy restaurants are trying to survive on delivery and take-out, others are attempting to retain customers by implementing social distancing measures (limiting the number of customers that can come inside, placing tape on the floor six feet apart for customers to stand on when in line, putting up barriers between employees and customers, etc.). 

The U.S. is being told by the government that these measures are temporary. But what does this timeline really look like? Information obtained from a simple internet search shows the obvious problems with reopening retail. Let’s address some of these issues:

  • Vaccine – There are many different vaccines in the works, but medical experts are still 12-18 months away from a viable vaccine.
  • Cure – There are promising drugs, but no magic bullet yet.  If that magic happens, it is still likely 12-18 months away.  
  • Herd immunity – This requires enough of the population to be infected and recover so the virus cannot spread any more. We are many months, potentially over a year away from this best-case scenario. Moreover, it is unknown if recovered individuals are immune.
  • Testing – COVID-19 testing to see who is currently infected and antibody testing to see who has recovered and is hopefully now immune. This is the most realistic solution to reopen the country.  We are nowhere near having this level of testing readily available.  It also relies upon the unproven assumption that these COVID-19 survivors are immune to reinfection.   

It is not palatable to think about, but when small business retail is finally allowed to reopen, likely at some point during the summer of 2020, COVID-19 will still be around and impacting us for another 12-18 months minimum.  For this reason, businesses not prepared to protect customers and employees from an active pandemic are likely to fail. This is particularly true of small retail.

 

How does small retail adapt and succeed in the midst of a global pandemic? 

Customers willing to venture out and brave the new world are going to have different expectations of safety and cleanliness than they did in a pre-COVID-19 world. However, satisfying these customers alone will not be enough to keep small retail in business. 

There will undoubtedly be a larger group of former customers that will not be back, at least not initially. The primary reason for this is that they will have found new ways to get what they want (think online) and need without engaging in the risky behavior of in-person retail.  Businesses that do not find a way to attract these former customers or to find new customers are destined to fail.  There are no simple solutions. But, here are a few ideas that can help. 

  1. Ensure customers are safe and “feel safe”.
  2. Message your existing customer base to ensure they know the measures you have taken for your safety and the safety of your employees.  You want to reassure your customers that you have gone above and beyond competitors.
  3. Make sure you have a product, service, or need that people are willing to come out for. 
  4. Take advantage of all online opportunities to sell your product.
  5. Concerted advertising, including optimization of social media.
  6. Take advantage of ALL government programs.
  7. Anticipate inflation/deflation, supply chain disruptions, and plan this uncertainty into your product costs.   
  8. Make connections with your customers and sell experiences (you can’t get that online).  People will be hungry for those.  Stand out. 

As with any retail crisis, there will be new opportunities. People always find new ways to succeed where others fail. That is a topic for another day.