Businesses may face devastating losses

The closure of PCH has brought a disastrous drop in sales for many of the city’s businesses, for some as high as 90 percent, but some relief may be in sight in the form of a holiday weekend and possible financial assistance from the federal government.

“We will definitely open two to three lanes for the Fourth of July, barring any slides,” said Michael Miles, district division chief at Caltrans.

City officials contacted Rep. Brad Sherman to request help in convincing the Small Business Administration to reopen the application process for El Nino-related disaster relief. A representative from Sherman’s office said the congressman expected to learn from the SBA late this week whether relief, in the form of low-interest, 20-year loans, would be available for losses not covered by insurance.

City Manager Harry Peacock told members of the Business Roundtable last week that city officials have also sought help on behalf of local businesses from FEMA and Gov. Pete Wilson. “We’ve been on the phone everyday with the governor’s office,” said Peacock. “They can push the right button, get to the right person.”

Mary Lou Blackwood, of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, told the roundtable that sales were down 30 to 90 percent at many local businesses, with some service stations experiencing a 90 percent drop. “That’s going to kill them, absolutely kill them,” said Peacock.

Sharon Caples, owner of Malibu Chicken, said business is down 80 to 90 percent. “With 120 days for the road repair, and on-and-off closures, a lot of businesses are going to go under,” she said. “I don’t know how much Malibu’s businesses can take.”

Jeff Peterson, general manager of Geoffrey’s restaurant, said business, on average, is down 50 percent. “Half of our business comes from the Westside,” he said.

Other businesses have fared moderately well, despite the road closure. Jim Davidson, owner of Budget Car and Truck Rental, said business for June was up from last year.” But we still expected it to be better if there hadn’t been the road closure,” he said.

Business owners are also concerned that because of the repeated road closures, sales will not bounce back once the road is opened and even after the repair work is completed six months from now.” I think it will be a year before people come back,” said Jannis Swerman, manager of Granita restaurant.

Blackwood said the perception of people who do not live here is that PCH will suddenly close, and they will be stuck in Malibu. The road closure has taken its toll on the city’s coffers as well. Peacock said that while PCH is closed, the city loses 35 percent of its sales tax receipts. The city annually earns about $365,000 in sales tax receipts. “Half of that comes in the summer,” said Peacock.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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