Local businesses worry about livelihood as COVID-19 concerns arise


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Some Tallahassee businesses say the impacts of local universities moving classes online will be felt beyond just students and are bracing for a big dip in sales.

Florida State UniversityFlorida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College made the decision to move to online classes for two weeks after spring break.

The extension means some students won’t return for the remainder of the semester.

Many businesses near campus depend on students for their livelihood, and their employees.

“All the camps come through, and you know, the basketball games and things like that,” Munchies Pizza owner Eric Riser said. “It does bring a lot of business to this area directly, but if they’re canceling camps, basketball games and the dorms are closed … there’s really not too many people on this side of town.”

If students are absent for an extended period of time, businesses are worried about what’s going to happen.

Riser said foot traffic is huge for him, as well as employment from college kids.

He has been running the new campus pizza joint for less than a year and is still trying to build a customer base.

“I am very concerned, especially as a new business,” said Riser. “We are, I think, probably more dependent on students than other businesses because we haven’t really built a reputation with residential customers yet.”

Riser says he now has 12 people on staff who don’t plan to come back after the break. He and his dad are going to be busy filling the extra vacancies.

Shara Bankston owns Paper Fox Coffee on Pensacola Street. She says lots of students means lots of business.

“Yes, students are our primary customers,” said Bankston. “We love all of our customers and we have business people that come in, but as you can see, the majority are students.”

“Over Christmas break, when the doors are closed and the students are gone our sales actually decrease by about 50 percent, and I’m kind of expecting a similar thing to happen,” Riser said.

The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce says there’s still time to figure things out.

“Our goal is to try and be there with real time information and understanding these are it is a very unusual circumstances and we wanna know that we’re here to assist in anyway possible,” said Sue Dick, president of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

As of Thursday, no one in Tallahassee has tested positive for COVID-19.

To help businesses that could be impacted by coronavirus the governor has activated the Emergency Business Assessment Survey.

This will allow businesses to report if they’ve seen loses due to COVID-19. That information will then be used to determine how to help those businesses in the future.

To take the Emergency Business Assessment Survey, click here.