DC-area small businesses look for guidance with no mandated closures

Irma Wheeler owns Illusions Salon, managing two locations in Georgetown and Arlington. (Credit: Google Street View)

It’s tough times for small businesses around the region as customers are advised to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic. But some shops that haven’t been mandated to close are looking for guidance they say is not coming.

Irma Wheeler owns Illusions Salon, managing two locations in Georgetown and Arlington.

“They’re closing down the bars and restaurants because they are so concerned about the people coming in. What about us? We’re working right on top of the clients,” Wheeler asked.

She’s frustrated with Virginia leaders who she said are not offering guidance on closing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Because if you tell us to do something, we will have to obey the laws. But they are not telling us anything,” she said. “We are in limbo to our decisions, which is making it even more difficult with the staff members who need the money and want to come into work.”

Illusions employs 40 staff members, and they work an hourly wage plus tips. Wheeler said one of her employees who also works part-time at a restaurant that is now closed was particularly upset about her decision to shutter her stores.

“Just to see his face — it broke my heart. So now he’s not able to go to the restaurant to work, and the only job he was having, that he might get lucky and get a tip from a client, was not going to be there. My hourly wage to him was not going to be there either,” Wheeler said.

Arlington County’s Biz Launch team is working to offer options for business owners considering what to do during the crisis. It’s offering one-on-one business counseling and webinars for business owners to get tips on surviving the downturn.

Arlington County has also urged restaurants and bars to close, but it has not been mandated by Virginia.

President Donald Trump and local governors, in line with CDC guidelines, have said that there should be no gatherings of more than 10 people to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Maryland and D.C. bars and restaurants are closed, along with other larger venues.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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