Roderick Cornish, the owner of Hot Rod Cafe in New London, has been getting used to new surroundings in Downtown New London.
"It has just been pretty dead, like a ghost town down here," said Cornish. "We decided to close down about two weeks ago to give social distancing a chance."
Cornish is planning to reopen his restaurant for take-out only in the end of April. As a small business owner navigating unchartered territory, Cornish has questions.
"One is really just what should we be doing? We are all about the health and safety of our customers and of our staff, but we also want to make sure that we are doing the right thing to keep the business going," said Cornish.
Mayor Michael Passero said that questions from small business owners, like Cornish, have never been more important to the city.
"We don't want to lose a single small business," said Passero.
About 1,600 small businesses help make up the local economy in the City of New London and many are impacted by the state of emergency in Connecticut, forcing nonessential businesses to close.
"It has absolutely shaken our local economy," said Felix Reyes, director of economic development and planning for the City of New London.
Reyes, Passero and other city leaders are working to address the impact of the global pandemic on small business owners. The city has launched an online resource center. Small business owners can click here to find information regarding relief efforts on the local, state and federal levels.
“We are not alone in this. We are working closely with DECD, the chambers of commerce, New London Main Street and the Women’s Business Development Council to bring every service and program that can help our small businesses together in one central place,” said Passero wrote in a press release. “We want to do everything we can to support our small businesses, and we will actively update DevelopNewLondon.com with new resources as they come available.”
In addition to the help center, the City of New London has tasked a city employee with running a hotline for small business owners. The employee is available to answer questions from small business owners and direct them to appropriate programs based on their specific needs. If you need help you can call 860-437-6309 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cornish, owner of Hot Rod, said that his application for the federal Paycheck Protection Program was just approved, but he has questions about what the next steps are.
Questions like that can be directed to the hotline for help navigating the process.
"Make sure they do not feel like they are by themselves," said Reyes.
"We had to create a line of communication for them to tell us this is what is going on," explained Reyes.
The city is hoping to keep their fingers on the pulse of what small business owners are dealing with, connect them to whatever resources that are available and prevent any business from closing unnecessarily.
"Keep doing the right thing - the social distancing, support your local businesses and we will get through this all together," said Cornish.