PASO ROBLES — On December 3, 2020, California went into a regional lockdown, which included San Luis Obispo County under the Southern California region.
This second lockdown forced retailers to operate at 20 percent capacity and restaurants to revert back to takeout only.
When Brad Daugherty, owner of Cider Creek Bakery in Paso Robles, learned about this second lockdown, he contemplated his next move.
“I laid in bed one night just going ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ If I have to close my doors again, I’m going to lose this place. To-go orders were just not enough to sustain [us],” Brad shared.
Daugherty and 10-15 other business owners in North County went back and forth with each other on what to do until 3 a.m. that night. Brad suggested that the business owners hold a meeting to discuss their options.
What should they do?
When Daugherty met for that meeting, he expected 10-15 people to attend. When he showed up, to his surprise, there were 40 San Luis Obispo County business owners.
That was when the San Luis Obispo County Small Business Coalition (SLOCSBC) was formed.
Now, the coalition is made up of 130 businesses and counting.
Daugherty explains the coalition as, “An outlet for people to express what’s going on. Talk about their experiences and gain knowledge so they can share their experience.” One example Brad gave was, “Say somebody had ABC come to them, that business owner will share their experience with everybody, that way everyone knows what to expect.”
Most people fear the unknown, especially when it comes to their business.
The coalition has become a support system for business owners in SLO County. It is a group where the owners can share their experiences, fears and receive feedback and advice from one another.
Daugherty explained that the coalition helps lower businesses’ anxiety, fear and feel more confident in opening their business if they want or have to.
When asking Daugherty about how he has kept Cider Creek Bakery afloat throughout the pandemic, he says he did it by simply staying open.
“By staying open — I played their game in the beginning. March, April, and May were rough, rough months,” Brad said.
Cider Creek Bakery had a record year of sales for 2019 and, based on sales for Jan. and Feb. 2020, was on track for being another record-breaking year for sales.
During California’s first lockdown, issued on March 19, 2020, Daugherty had to lay off eight employees, and the bakery’s sales were down 50 percent.
In April of 2020, Brad received his Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and used it to bring back most of his staff.
When the PPP money ran out, Daugherty knew he had to stay open to keep his business. Since May, he has remained open with a full staff of 16 employees.
“I’ve kept my doors open. I’ve put myself on every county watchlist. There hasn’t been an enforcement agency that hasn’t had contact with me,” Daugherty stated.
Cider Creek Bakery has remained open with social distancing, masks, and sanitization procedures.
In December 2020, sales ended up beating the bakery’s 2019 record year sales. Now for January, the bakery is operating at 80 percent sales.
When asked what he thinks the rest of the year will look like with COVID regulations and sales, Daugherty says he’s not sure what could happen. But he does know what he will be doing.
“I can tell you what I’m not going to change here—I’m not going to change how I’m operating. I can’t control what the public does. Whether they come through my doors or not but they will be open — They literally will have to force me to close this time,” Daugherty said.
Brad explained that businesses like his that don’t require a liquor license have been left alone for the most part with no significant threats.
So why does Daugherty continue to push back?
“This fight is for every business that is being crushed by our government, especially those that have recently been targeted by ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) and threatened to have their liquor licenses suspended,” Daugherty explained.
Brad says he and the SLOCSBC are very close to filing a lawsuit against the California Governor or the State of California.
The SLOCSBC is essentially fighting for businesses’ Right to Earn a Living Act, which states, “The right of individuals to pursue a chosen profession, free from arbitrary or excessive government interference, is a fundamental civil right.”
Anyone interested in joining the coalition can contact Brad Daugherty at firstname.lastname@example.org.