Sign - spread love not germs

ASHLAND -- A chalkboard sign outside Downtown Ashland's Fig & Oak last Friday read, "spread love, not germs." 

The owner of the small specialty store at 100 West Main Street, Julie Mitchell said her mother wrote the message last week after the first few Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases were confirmed in Ohio.

Since then, the Coronavirus has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, 50 (or more) cases have been confirmed statewide and Governor Mike DeWine has taken unprecedented actions in Ohio by closing schools for three weeks, restricting visitation at nursing homes and as of Sunday evening, closing dine-in service at all bars and restaurants until further notice. 

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For places like O'Bryan's Pub on Claremont Avenue, this news comes directly before what's typically its busiest day of the year.  The bar's annual St. Patrick's Day party normally packs the bar with hundreds of customers into the night, but this Tuesday, the bar will be bare. In response to the newly announced regulations, O'Bryan's Pub is offering carry out during limited hours, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and soon, delivery will be implemented. Bartenders and servers will be transitioning into delivery roles, a Facebook post explained. 

"We're hoping to keep our employees covered the best we can. We're sorting out the pieces as we go," said business owner Brad Bryan. "We're taking to go orders right now and considering delivery. Bills will still keep going."

He promises a Saint Patrick's Day Party will be planned when it's allowed and safe for the community to come together again.

"It may be July or October, but we'll celebrate," Bryan said. 

In the meantime, he hopes to complete some light remodeling and repairs at O'Bryan's Pub.

He is grateful for the chance to return unopened high-proof liquor products purchased within the past 30 days, as allowed by Ohio Liquor. He had more than double or triple his typical inventory. 

"The question is how long, but let's be real, they don't know," Bryan said. "In five years, we'll laugh at it, but today it's pretty ugly."

For small businesses like Mitchell's Fig & Oak, customers have been a scarce sight since COVID-19 arrived in Ohio. Inside the store, Mitchell has added hand sanitizer for her customers and has regularly wiped down doorknobs and countertops with disinfecting wipes.

This weekend, she announced delivery, and soon, she intends to launch an online version of the store. The small business is offering free delivery within Ashland City limits, and for those outside the limits, the Fig & Oak will be offering curbside pickup for any orders of $25 plus. Customers are instructed to choose "in-store pickup" at checkout for delivery options. Messaging around its online store plans will be available on the business's Facebook Page

Because of the measures that have been put in place because of COVID-19, Main Street Ashland's executive director Sandra Tunnell is encouraging Ashland residents to consider out-of-the-box ways to support local businesses.

"We can't forget our small businesses. It's one thing for them to ride out a slow January or February, but it's another thing for them to ride out this," Tunnell said. 

She encourages people to support businesses by ordering take out or often their new delivery options in the coming weeks -- or months. 

"Ask them how you can help. Ask them if they'd be flexible. Just ask them," Tunnell said. 

Many of the small, local businesses in downtown Ashland have their livelihoods invested in their businesses, Tunnell continued.

"Don’t forget these people. If you can hep them out, help them out," she said. 

Five unique ways to consider supporting local businesses:

1. Order cookies from a local bakery and request they be delivered to a hospital or emergency room. 

2. Buy a gift card online or over the phone and save it to treat yourself at a later time when the business has recovered. 

3. Leave a positive Facebook review and promote the business via social media. 

4.  Buy over the phone or online. Ask if they can work around any of your barriers or concerns. 

5. Leave a tip -- as your budget allows -- when ordering for pick-up. 

Process for Accessing SBA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disaster Relief Lending

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.

“The President took a bold, decisive action to make our 30 million small businesses more resilient to Coronavirus-related economic disruptions. Small businesses are vital economic engines in every community and state, and they have helped make our economy the strongest in the world," said Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza in a statement issued Friday. "Our Agency will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the situation.

"Additionally, the SBA continues to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans through our network of 68 District Offices and numerous Resource Partners located around the country. The SBA will continue to provide every small business with the most effective and customer-focused response possible during these times of uncertainty.”

Any such Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance declaration issued by the SBA makes loans available to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in designated areas of a state or territory to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with the state’s or territory’s Governor to submit the request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance.

Once a declaration is made for designated areas within a state, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to all affected communities.

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.

SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are just one piece of the expanded focus of the federal government’s coordinated response, and the SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible.

For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.