Local businesses seek to reopen

Kristina Blüm Justice
Staff Writer

While stay at home orders at the state and local level has been challenging for everyone, it has been especially difficult for small businesses and a group of them from Inyo and Mono counties has joined together to encourage local government to let them go back to work.
“This came about because a bunch of people are unable to work or support their families, and they’ve had enough,” said Lynne Greer, owner of the June Lake Junction in Mono County. “People are being denied the ability to provide for their families. All we’re defending is our right to work; there are zero politics in this group. This is not the place for that. We have one goal, and that is to get people back to work and save our community.”
A peaceful protest was held Friday afternoon in Bishop. Many of the protesters were local small business owners who are in danger of losing the businesses they have dedicated so much of their lives to creating.
“We just want to go to work,” Greer said. “Unions fight for the right to work all the time, but small businesses don’t have that. We do have our voices, and we’re using them. We’re the ones paying these taxes, collecting sales and TOT taxes with our boots on the ground. Three words, ‘Let us work.’”
The owners formed a Facebook group to stay connected and within a few days, it had more than 300 members. Greer said some are afraid of losing their licenses or being fined for speaking out or opening their business, but they are getting desperate.
According to the group’s page, several business owners in Mammoth and Bishop did opt to open their doors on Friday, even though Gov. Gavin Newsum has not lifted the stay home order.
In a press release, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office stated that reopening hinges on the governor, and “Inyo County will be ready and able to take action once the governor begins to modify his statewide executive orders. Planning is under way to identify specific strategies and data markers for reopening our economy as we move towards recovery.”
The press release did not indicate any penalties that may be levied against businesses that defy the order. It did, however, include a list of the recommended health and safety precautions, such as wearing a face covering, washing hands and staying six feet apart.
“Do they not think we’re smart enough to take the CDC seriously and wash our hands,” Greer said. “We’ve done that. We’ve stayed home for six weeks. Give your business owners some credit. We have been taught how to work safely. We know there’s a virus, we know how serious it is. Please give the business owners the respect of knowing that they will use their brain. They’ll eliminate as much risk as they possibly can.”
Greer pointed to the hardware and grocery stores in Bishop, which have been extremely busy during the quarantine. All of the businesses that have remained open have done their due diligence to keep everything sanitary.
“I think they serve as an example,” Greer said. “Even though you can’t get a parking spot at the hardware store, we’ve managed to keep our case count low, and we haven’t had any new cases diagnosed for more than a week. How different is a crowded hardware store from, say, the jewelry store that might have one or two people in it at a time?
“Business owners are incredibly smart people,” she continued. “We have guidelines to follow, and we will follow them. Let us go to work. No business owner wants to make people sick. I’ve sold food for 20 years, and I’ve never made anyone sick because I have the Mono County Health Department regulating what I do – and I follow those regulations.”
The June Lake Junction is considered “essential” because it sells gas, and has remained open during the quarantine. However it has taken a huge financial hit from doing so, Greer said.
She went on to note that it should not be up to the government to determine what businesses are “essential” because for those who are providing for their families, every job is essential.
“We are a community, and that’s what I’m fighting for; my friends who have worked their butts of to start a business and provide for their families,” Greer said.