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'It's heartbreaking stuff': Local businesses struggle with coronavirus concerns

Many local businesses are losing revenue due to fears over spreading the coronavirus. Some are getting creative to stay afloat.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Many local businesses are feeling the financial impact of fears over spreading or catching the coronavirus. Some are getting creative to stay afloat.

At Spirit of 77, March is typically the Northeast Portland bar’s busiest month. Now that most spectator sports have been canceled, the bar is quiet.

“Obviously it’s a much needed step but it's really hard for small businesses right now,” said general manager, Brandon Bowden.

Bowden had to think fast. He remembered last July when they brought out shuffle boards to attract business during their slow season.

“When they said no sports we said, 'What the heck, let’s get it out and give the people something to do,'” said Bowden. “It's nice because you can keep your social distance from people and still play."

For businesses that can't adapt or are still working to establish themselves, these are even more trying times. Experts advised business owners not to panic, to take pause and communicate.

“If you're a retail business that has a loan with a bank, call your banker, call your landlord, talk with them about your situation, be honest with where you're at,” said Stephen Green, board member for Built Oregon, an advocacy group for maker businesses around the state. “Everyone wants to see small businesses thrive and prosper, especially in challenging times.”

Green said even customers who don't feel comfortable dining out or shopping in public can still support small businesses by buying gift cards.

“Go into businesses, go online, find a way to purchase future product from a company,” said Green. "Every little bit helps.”

Green said Built Oregon recently sent a survey to small businesses around the state, asking owners how the coronavirus had impacted them. Green said in just one day, he got over 200 responses from business owners sharing their plights. Thirty percent of them reported a weekly revenue drop of more than $5,000 since the coronavirus began impacting communities.

“The biggest information of the survey so far is really the emotional toll,” said Green. “It's heartbreaking stuff, but it just brings home the fact that we need urgency right now. Every day lost is a lost opportunity with some of these business owners.”

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In Oregon, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, according to officials. At KGW, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: kgw.com/FactsNotFear 

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