Following Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s prevention measures in combating COVID-19 transmission by executive orders, restrictions on businesses and travel have forced local establishments to hastily adapt.
Some have applied for at least one CARES Act funding option, in hopes to mitigate the lost of their most profitable months.
All --- including Best Western Gold Canyon Inn and Suites, Wahoo’s Restaurant and Bar, and Gold Canyon Golf Resort and Spa -- have had to introduce inventive solutions to protect customers and employees.
Business has been down since mid-March at Best Western Gold Canyon Inn and Suites, 8333 E. Sunrise Sky Drive in Gold Canyon, General Manager Pat Tanna said.
“It was in middle of March when they closed down the renaissance fair and then we had the lock-down, which closed down our breakfast, which is a big plus for a lot of customers,” she said.
“A lot of company travel stopped, so employees that would normally work out here had to stop travels, so we lost all that business. And, basically, we lost the whole months of April and March, which normally is where we make the profit; we pay the mortgage for June, July, August out of that money --- so, we lost all of that.” Ms. Tanna said.
Business has been picking up recently, she said.
“We went down by 90% occupancy. It was pretty rough. It’s starting to pick up again, a little bit, but still nowhere where it should be. And the business that we already lost because of renaissance fair and Country Thunder and weddings and tournaments or whatever, we’ll never recover that --- no matter what happens,” Ms. Tanna said.
The business applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP loan, which allocated money for low-interest loans for payroll and other costs.
“We did get the PPP loan.” Ms. Tanna said. “We did actually put in an application within a couple of days after it coming out, but the bank rejected it immediately because all the funds were used up from the bigger companies. For the small businesses, there really wasn’t anything until the second round. So, we didn’t get it until the second round of applications.”
No employees have been laid off at Best Western Gold Canyon Inn and Suites, she said.
“We haven’t laid anybody off, but we cut their hours drastically and we allowed all of them to apply for unemployment at the same time. So, we did what we could,” she said.
New cleaning procedures from Best Western have been implemented.
“Because of the COVID we’ve had to put in a lot of new standards in place. Best Western has come out with new cleaning recommendations. So, we’ve changed our cleaning policies a lot. Using a lot of cleaning equipment, lot of disinfectants, gloves. We wore gloves anyway but now even more so than before,” she said.
“We are cleaning the touch-points where (you) would touch: buttons, stairs, banisters, handrails and stuff like that. We’re doing that eight or nine times a day now --- as opposed to just once a day. So, if there’s something, hopefully we’re catching it with a disinfectant. So, our cleaning costs have actually gone up dramatically, with the lower occupancy on top,” Ms. Tanna said.
“We are taking extra care and making sure that everything is kept clean. And trying to keep our social distance. We put up barriers for our staff in the front, sneeze guards or cough guards,” she said.
Ms. Tanna hopes the breakfast room will open soon.
“We would like to see our breakfast room open again; to be able to sell more items. Right now it’s a limited breakfast. We’ll see what happens on that,” she said. “We’re waiting to find out from the governor. Basically, when we will allow us to do that. Or, we’re trying to look for more options where we can have somebody here, all time, serving the customer.”
Gold Canyon businesses faced unique challenges when restrictions were placed on restaurants March 19, Lisa Fairbanks said. She and her husband, Stan, own Wahoo’s Restaurant and Bar, 8654 E. Topaz Drive, and Oldie’s Ice Cream, 5301 S. Superstition Mountain Drive, both in Gold Canyon.
“In Gold Canyon we’re harder hit than your larger metropolitan areas because we derive 75% of our income from a seven-month period of time. We only get 25% --- or less --- of our income during the summer months,” she said.
“And our biggest months where we set-back to survive summer are January, February, March and April. We set back enough funds in January and February to maybe get us through half of the summer, but our biggest months --- March and April --- we weren’t able to set back any funds, and used the funds we had to pay net 30 invoices for the months prior when we were open,” Mrs. Fairbanks said. “The biggest months of the year, we lost.”
Mrs. Fairbanks recently spoke before the county board of supervisors about small-business loans, an economic injury disaster loan declaration approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration that allocated funds to the state of Arizona to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
“I recently appeared before the Pinal County Board of Supervisors in a session about the litigation that we were seeking against the state of Arizona, as a county, because monies that (were) allocated to the state for communities less than $500,000 were given from the federal government to the Arizona Treasury and [Gov.] Ducey to distribute and none of those funds have found their way back to smaller communities like Gold Canyon and Casa Grande,” she said.
“We aren’t seeing any assistance from the state of Arizona. They’re holding onto founds and only distributing to Pima County and Maricopa County. So the county attorney in Pinal County [Kent Volkmer] is actually filing suit with the unanimous decision by the board of supervisors, to file suit against the state of Arizona to disburse those funds,” Mrs. Fairbanks said.
“But, I don’t know how we will, or if we will, see any of those funds. But we definitely have 100% of the bills and do not have 100% of the revenue,” she said.
The business received a PPP loan, she said.
“We were fortunate enough to apply for the PPP loan, which I applaud our federal government for putting together a program like that --- to try and assist small businesses and retain employees --- but it’s a conundrum because by the time we got funds we’ve already been closed for a few weeks; people have already applied for unemployment. And several of them wouldn’t come back because they were getting $840 to stay home,” Mrs. Fairbanks said.
Wahoo’s Restaurant and Bar was closed portions of March and April before it opened in a creative way and then reopened dine-in service in May.
“We closed from March 20 to April 16. Then we found a creative way to drive revenue by doing a drive-in service --- where we had people come and sit in the parking lot waiting for their to-go food or drink, and we had live music outside to entertain them, for a couple weeks. Then we officially reopened dine-in service at 50% capacity on May 11,” Mrs. Fairbanks said.
“There’s still a lot of trepidation about coming out and there’s a lot of people that won’t go out yet. We have some customers that are very loyal to us and have returned and they sit outside. We’ve had some moderate temperatures lately that has allowed for that. But as we go into the next week we’ll see that dwindle away as well,” she said.
“We’ve been truly blessed for several years and we know that God has a plan for us and we’re just going to keep praying; and we’re just going to hang in there, and we know if it was meant to be, we’ll survive,” Mrs. Fairbanks said.
After being closed for more than two months, Gold Canyon Golf Resort and Spa, 6100 S. Kings Ranch Road in Gold Canyon, has reopened with changes, General Manager Carlo Karim said.
“The hotel was closed for a good two and a half months,” he said.
“We’ve cut down our hours of operation; we don’t serve breakfast anymore. It’s really had a pretty profound effect on all the businesses here ... the resort has 220 people that work in there. It has impacted a lot of those people,” Mr. Karim said.
“They had their routine --- mothers came to work, kids went to school, husbands went to work. Now, all the sudden, nobody’s going to work, they’re staying home, looking at each other. Then once we opened up and we called people back to work --- these moms have kids --- what do you do with these kids? So, it’s been a pretty tough thing on everybody. Not only at the resort, but society as a whole,” he said.
Social-distancing and other guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been implemented, he said.
“You can see, those tables out there, we’re doing this social-distancing here ... we’ve cut down the number of people we take for reservations,” Mr. Karim said.
“We came up with new cleaning procedures and policies to make sure people are comfortable, also that our staff is comfortable doing it,” he said. “We’ve cut down our hours of operation; we don’t serve breakfast anymore. It’s really had a pretty profound effect on all the businesses here. But hopefully that will change.”
The Gold Canyon Golf Resort and Spa is a great place for a stay-cation, he said.
“We’ve been here for 30 years, 35 years actually, and we are going to be here for another 40, 50 years. Support your local business,” Mr. Karim said.
“Traveling is a little iffy; come and stay here. You can make a stay-cation out of it. Help the people who live here in your neighborhoods and your communities. Try it. Until things get back to normal, hopefully.”
Editor’s note: Volunteer reporter R. Nicholas Evans, who lives in the East Valley, is a freelance journalist.