Barrio Logan’s Small Businesses Struggle During Coronavirus Fallout – Chicano Park Day Cancelled

by on March 30, 2020 · 2 comments

in Health, San Diego

Chicano Park Day during happier times. Photo by Rob Camacho.

By Roberto ‘Rob’ Camacho

As more and more states across the country increasingly issue stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic (officially known as COVID-19), it is an understatement to say that the virus has fundamentally turned all of our lives upside down.

With the federal government declaring a national state of emergency on March 13th in response to the ongoing outbreak inside the U.S. and California Governor Gavin Newsom issuing a statewide stay-at-home a week later on March 19th the outbreak has resulted in the closure of schools, businesses, and numerous social services as both state and federal officials across the country race to contain the outbreak and mitigate the rate of infection.

Locally, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has also declared a State of Emergency in the city in response to the ongoing pandemic. Prohibiting all public and private gatherings of fifty or more people, and strongly discouraging all nonessential gatherings of any size in effort to contain the spread of the virus.

While no region in San Diego, let alone the country, has been untouched by the outbreak and subsequent public shutdowns, few communities are likely to be as directly affected as San Diego’s neighborhood of Barrio Logan; one of the most colorful and historic Chicano communities in all the country and home to historic Chicano Park.

Abound with vibrant culture and rich history, in recent years the neighborhood has come to embody the creative and artistic epicenter of San Diego. With an assortment of galleries, studios, boutique shops; as well as restaurants and breweries throughout the neighborhood. While many jobs in San Diego are tethered to crowded venues and events, the more than fifty businesses situated in in Barrio Logan’s arts and cultural districts are caught in a particularly difficult position amidst the outbreak. Faced with the daunting task of trying to stay afloat and preserving a once-thriving art scene as the outbreak continues and moratoriums on public gatherings keep residents largely confined to their homes.

In the past, large outdoor events such as the summertime car show La Vuelta, the monthly Barrio Art Crawl and other various art shows organized by the neighborhood’s various galleries have helped attract foot traffic and generate revenue for the myriad businesses throughout the community.

Chicano Park Day is a major event every year in Barrio Logan. This year it has been cancelled. Photo by Rob Camacho.

However, due to the coronavirus’ frighteningly swift spread and highly contagious nature, virtually all of the neighborhood’s biggest events have been canceled or postponed. The most telling announcement marking the gravity of the situation came earlier in the month when the Chicano Park Steering Committee issued an official statement informing the public that the 50th annual Chicano Park Day set to take place on April 25th would be postponed indefinitely due to community health and safety concerns.

Drawing thousands of people to the neighborhood every year, the day-long celebration is easily the neighborhood’s largest and most highly anticipated event. Featuring bands, food vendors, merchandise booths and hundreds of lowrider cars exhibits, the event annually brings in precious foot traffic and revenue to the neighborhood’s businesses; especially those situated on Logan Avenue where streets are shut down to vehicle traffic and countless vendors line the streets to set up shop.

With large events such as Chicano Park Day, the Barrio Logan Art Crawl and others now indefinitely postponed until it is safe to once again hold large outdoor events, businesses in the neighborhood that one benefited from the large crowds and foot-traffic that came with them have now seen traffic dwindle down to a trickle, coming to a near standstill.

Faced with the very real prospect of current stay-at-home orders remaining in place for weeks or even months as the country struggles to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus, some business owners have tried to bring attention to the plight of businesses in the neighborhood.

Soni López-Chávez, co-owner of La Bodega Gallery, took to Logan Avenue early last week to show firsthand the risk Barrio Logan’s businesses face in the midst of the outbreak. In an Instagram video taken on March 23rd, López-Chávez captured a deserted scene of a normally bustling avenue. “The block is absolutely dead, there’s no people walking around, there’s no life and no energy”, said López-Chávez.

“If you’re out shopping please keep in mind these small businesses and shop local, because during these times they really need that support. A lot of these places cannot make it without income for a week, two weeks let alone a month or two so if you’re out shopping please support the small businesses”.

Likewise, local cartoonist and political satirist Junco Canché, who regularly showcases art at various events in the neighborhood shared his thoughts on the effects public shutdowns have had on independent artists and small businesses in the neighborhood.

“It seemed like the coronavirus impact would only last maybe a couple of weeks, but it has progressed to where people have to remain indoors. Local artists rely on events, such as Chicano Park Day and others to showcase our art, and to make a profit. For some of us, it’s our main source of income”.

In spite of the measures put in place as a result of the outbreak Junco remained optimistic urging the community to remain calm and take this time look out for one another, “I cannot think of anybody who is not being affected by the lack of business from these virus prevention measures. If people feel like stepping out of their houses, please continue to support the small businesses and artists that choose to remain open and operating”.

Jalihin Orozco who owns Stick On Arts, a arts and crafts supply store on National Avenue also shared her thoughts on the uncertainty many small business owners share.

“This business is all I have in order to provide for my family. As a single mother of three, it is crucial to have my business open. If my business or regular monthly events are shut down, I will not be able to survive a month without work. I’m not the only business owner going through this, everyone is. Barrio Logan is a community that needs help in this uncertainty times”.

Display from Jalihin Orozco’s business Tu Corazon Atesanal, an arts, crafts and antiquities shop that sells unique, authentic items directly from artisans of different regions all throughout Mexico.

Orozco recommended that people who want to support businesses during the outbreak do so through online sales, “My recommendation to everyone is to please shop locally. Most of the shops are having online sales or sales through Instagram. If you can support small businesses, please do. We need your support more than ever”.

While many are still left wondering what the future holds for Barrio Logan’s cultural district and businesses in the wake of public shutdowns all across San Diego, fortunately, some relief does appear to be on the way. In response to the loss of work and massive lay-offs, San Diego County has since placed a moratorium on all evictions effective until May 31st. Tenants must be able to prove a significant loss of income (30% or more) in order to qualify for applications for the moratoriums and those that do will have up to six months after the moratorium to pay any unpaid rent.

While small businesses can look forward to some relief, with stays on rents and moratoriums on evictions; even measure like this can only do so much to off-set the inevitable slow-down of commerce to business. Especially those who receive big boosts in revenue from events such as Chicano Park Day and others now postponed for weeks and possibly even months.

Needless to say, the community like many others through the country are caught in a difficult position. Residents by in large are doing the right thing and being responsible. They’re staying indoors, social distancing and not interacting with people, which is absolutely vital to flattening the curve and mitigating the spread of the virus. But sadly, while large corporate chains will undoubtedly weather and rebound, and other big established businesses can file for bankruptcy; many of Logan’s small businesses simply don’t have these luxuries.

In a neighborhood where many business and even home renters were already fending off the stranglehold of gentrification brought on by astronomical rent hikes; a mass prolonged shutdown of this magnitude could have absolutely devastating results.

For now, like many others, Barrio Logan’s art community will likely face some difficulties in the weeks and months ahead. With some experts theorizing that the outbreak inside the U.S. could last well into the summer, measures such as isolation and social distancing are all likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

And it’s for this very reason that regardless of what city or community that you live in that you please continue to support the small businesses and independent artists that choose or have no choice but to remain open to make a living. Because, when this all over they will likely be among some of the most affected and will without a doubt need our continued support.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Barrio Brent March 30, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Glad to see Rob writing for the OB Rag. Great addition!


Ernie McCray March 31, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Welcome, Rob. Thanks for giving us the scoop on what’s happening in Barrio Logan.


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