Business owner Brad Daugherty forms a small business coalition in support due to California’s ever-changing guidelines.

PASO ROBLES – On Dec. 3, 2020, California went into a regional lockdown, which included San Luis Obispo County under the Southern California region. 

This second lockdown forced retailers to operate at 20 percent capacity and restaurants to revert back to takeout only.

When Brad Daugherty, owner of Cider Creek Bakery in Paso Robles, learned about this second lockdown, he contemplated his next move.

“I laid in bed one night just going ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ If I have to close my doors again, I’m going to lose this place. To-go orders were just not enough to sustain [us],” said Daugherty.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Daugherty and 10-15 other business owners in North County went back and forth with each other on what to do until 3 a.m. that night. Daugherty suggested that the business owners hold a meeting to discuss their options. 

What should they do?

When Daugherty met for that meeting, he expected 10-15 people to attend. When he showed up, to his surprise, there were 40 San Luis Obispo County business owners.

That was when the San Luis Obispo County Small Business Coalition (SLOCSBC) was formed.

Now, the coalition is made up of 130 businesses and counting.

Daugherty explains the coalition as, “An outlet for people to express what’s going on. Talk about their experiences and gain knowledge so they can share their experience.” One example Daughtery gave was, “Say somebody had ABC come to them, that business owner shares their experience with everybody, that way everybody knows what to expect.”

Most people fear the unknown, especially when it comes to their business. 

The coalition has become a support system for business owners in SLO County. It is a place where business owners can share their experiences, fears or get feedback from one another. 

Cydney Armas (left) and Maiya Reynoso (right) working hard through the lunch rush at Cider Creek Bakery. Photos by Camille DeVaul

Daugherty shares that the coalition helps lower businesses’ anxiety and fear and feel more confident in opening their business if they want or have to do.

When asking Daugherty how he has kept Cider Creek Bakery afloat throughout the pandemic, he says he did it by simply staying open. 

“By staying open — I played their game in the beginning. March, April, and May were rough, rough months,” said Daugherty.

Cider Creek Bakery had a record year of sales for 2019 and, based on sales for Jan. and Feb. 2020, was on track for being another record-breaking year for sales.

During California’s first lockdown, issued on Mar. 19, 2020, Daugherty had to lay off eight employees, and the bakery’s sales were down 50 percent.

In April of 2020, Daugherty received his Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and used it to bring back most of his staff. 

When the PPP money ran out, Daugherty knew he had to stay open to keep his business. Since May, Daugherty has remained open with a full staff of 16 employees. 

“I’ve kept my doors open. I’ve put myself on every county watchlist. There hasn’t been an enforcement agency that hasn’t had contact with me,” Daugherty said.

Cider Creek Bakery has remained open with social distancing, masks, and sanitization procedures. 

December 2020 sales ended up beating the bakery’s 2019 record year sales. Now for Jan., the bakery is operating at 80 percent sales.

When asked what he thinks the rest of the year will look like with COVID regulations and sales, Daugherty says he’s not sure what could happen. But he does know what he will be doing.

“I can tell you what I’m not going to change here — I’m not going to change how I’m operating. I can’t control what the public does. Whether they come through my doors or not but they will be open — They literally will have to force me to close this time,” says Daugherty.

Daugherty explained that businesses like his that don’t require a liquor license have been left alone for the most part with no significant threats.

So why does Daugherty continue to push back?

“This fight is for every business that is being crushed by our government, especially those that have recently been targeted by the ABC and threatened to have their liquor licenses suspended,” says Daugherty. 

Daugherty says he and the SLOCSBC are very close to filing a lawsuit against the California Governor or the State of California.

The SLOCSBC is essentially fighting for businesses’ Right to Earn a Living Act, which states, “The right of individuals to pursue a chosen profession, free from arbitrary or excessive government interference, is a fundamental civil right.”

Anyone interested in joining the coalition can contact Brad Daugherty at brad@protectpaso.org. 

Publishers Note:

The right to earn a living is the shared sentiment of each of these business owners and why they joined SLOCSBC. Throughout the pandemic, most have felt as if they did not have an advocate that could help them navigate through these unprecedented times.  

As a community, it is important to remember that each of these business owners are a part of what makes our community and economy thrive. They are your friends, neighbors, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, children, and grandparents. They follow strict sanitation protocols are held to a higher standard of cleanliness by all the California Health Code laws that were already in place before COVID.

Together we can choose to make 2021 great by going the extra mile for each other. If you want people to wear masks, offer to supply places you visit with extras. Or stay home even more often to prevent conflict with personal space in public areas. There is always more we can give so that other people can be more free, safe, and comfortable.