What a reopened California will look like — and businesses’ odds of survival

By SAM DEANPATRICIA ESCÁRCEGAHUGO MARTÍNBILL SHAIKINRYAN FAUGHNDER

Businesses in California may start opening again as soon as Friday. But it won’t be business as usual.

Social distancing and sanitation protocols are likely to stay in place until testing, contact tracing and a vaccine become widely available. State and local officials are working to hash out exactly what that will mean for reopened businesses, but the basic principles are familiar enough by now: Staff and customers must wear masks; the number of people allowed in an establishment must be reduced to allow for six-foot spacing when possible; anything that people touch needs to be disinfected, frequently.

Restaurants and retail are likely to reopen with these restrictions within weeks, according to recent guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom and health officials. Businesses involving close contact and larger crowds — movie theaters, bars, hair salons, gyms — will need to wait months. And those that involve mass gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, are unlikely to reopen until the threat of the novel coronavirus has largely passed.

But can businesses even afford to open their doors under these restrictions? Or can they figure out new ways to turn a profit?

The answer depends on the sector. Retail stores might be able to sell enough under social distancing — assuming anyone is looking to shop. Movie theater owners say they can still keep the lights on with half-capacity crowds, but not if there aren’t any new movies to screen. Restaurants, which operate on margins as slim as spaghetti in the best of times, might just muddle through as long as the booze flows.

But tango lessons? Dodger games? That’s a little more complicated. Here’s what experts and business owners across the consumer economy are thinking a reopened world will look like — and how it’ll affect their bottom lines.

Reported by Los Angeles Times / Plastic partitions separate diners on Tuesday in Bangkok.(Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP / Getty Images)

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