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Alexandria Businesses Bracing For Effects of COVID-19

Businesses, nonprofits and hotels around the city are feeling the initial effects of COVID-19.

Many businesses are offering contact-less service, delivering goods from door-to-door, and providing workouts and other services online for customers who would otherwise have to venture from home.

At fibre space (1319 Prince Street) in Old Town, owner Danielle Romanetti has seen a 50% hit to her sales volume over the last several days. She says that because some office-type businesses are choosing to allow employees to work from home, there is extra pressure on retailers and restaurants to do the same, but unlike many government agencies and service/office-related businesses, restaurants and retail can not function with closed doors.

“We always take phone orders and are also happy to bring your order out to your car, if you don’t want to come in,” Romanetti said. “We have hand sanitizer available and also frequently disinfect our cash register area and credit card machines. We have two bathrooms open to you to use to wash your hands. We will ship or do curbside delivery for anyone who wants to use those options.

“Be aware that this virus is hitting our small business community particularly hard,” she said. “I appreciate all of you who are finding ways to support your locally owned businesses right now.”

The first Alexandria resident to test presumptive positive for the disease was announced on Wednesday night. The previous day, many local business owners watched a web conference with the city’s health department and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. On Friday, the city public school system announced that it will be closing starting on Monday until the end of spring break on April 14, meaning less free time during the day for thousands of parents.

Nonprofits like Carpenter’s Shelter, which provides temporary housing and food for the homeless, will also be affected, said Heather Peeler, CEO of ACT for Alexandria.

“Organizations like Carpenter’s Shelter are wholly dependent on volunteers to deliver a lot of the services to the homeless community,” Peeler said. “Without volunteers, a lot of the support they offer is not going to be available, and if there is a quarantine situation in a shelter, it’s going to be even more difficult to serve other homeless clients in the city.”

As previously reported, Bill Blackburn, co-owner of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, said that he and his staff of 150 are “ramping up” sanitation practices and will deliver food to customers contact-free at the door.

“We share the concerns with the community, and this is something we are not taking lightly,” Blackburn said.

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Del Ray yoga studio Mind The Mat (2214 Mount Vernon Avenue) is now offering classes online, and The Dog Park (705 King Street) is encouraging customers to order online or pay over the phone to minimize contact.

Visitors at the Hyatt Centric in Old Town (1625 King Street) are greeted by a doorman.

“I’ll get it. You don’t need to touch the door,” a doorman told an ALXnow reporter.

Hyatt Centric General Manager Matt Karow said that staff are being vigilant in following the recommended procedures and protocols of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and local health authorities.

“At Hyatt Centric Old Town Alexandria the safety and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues is always a top priority,” Karow told us. “We continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation. In January 2020, a comprehensive guide about COVID-19 was shared with all Hyatt hotels globally, including Hyatt Centric Old Town, that outlines what COVID-19 is [and] how to protect against transmission of virus… if the virus is confirmed among a colleague or guest.”

Adnan Hamidi, the owner of Alexandria Cupcake [1022 King Street], hasn’t seen a dip in his business and isn’t too worried.

“Business has remained the same. However, I do foresee deliveries increasing,” Hamidi said. “We’re so diligent on cleaning that we already clean throughout the day, multiple times a day with disinfecting wipes. We’re at the top of our game, and it’s so clean you could eat off our floor, although I wouldn’t recommend it.”

One owner of an Old Town restaurant inside of a hotel, however, said that his business has suffered dramatically.

“Hotel occupancy has been affected by the disease, so the virus has certainly affected us, too. A lot of groups have canceled their hotel reservations,” the restaurateur said. “We got just got to take every day as it comes and see what the results are. We’re just going to do everything we can to make sure our facilities are kept tip-top.”

“People still gotta eat and go out and socialize and do all that stuff,” the restaurant owner continued. “We’re still gonna have hotel guests, so we want to make sure those people have a good experience and we want to be the bright part of the day — not the coronavirus part of the day.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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