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Port San Luis considers extending COVID-19 relief to two businesses 

The Port San Luis Harbor District is considering extending a discount on rent aimed at helping businesses in the area stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as of now, only two businesses stand to benefit from the extension.

click to enlarge A HELPING HAND The Port San Luis Harbor Commission is considering extending its Lessee Recovery Program to two businesses—Wilcox Fisheries and Patriot Sportfishing—that are still struggling with COVID-19 hits. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PORT SAN LUIS HARBOR DISTRICT FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Port San Luis Harbor District Facebook Page
  • A HELPING HAND The Port San Luis Harbor Commission is considering extending its Lessee Recovery Program to two businesses—Wilcox Fisheries and Patriot Sportfishing—that are still struggling with COVID-19 hits.

At a meeting on July 28, the Port San Luis Harbor Commission reviewed its Lessee Recovery Program, an initiative approved on April 16 that allowed businesses grappling with coronavirus-related losses to apply for a 50 percent discount on rent in March, April, and May. Through the program, businesses were able to defer half of their rental payments for up to a year.

While commissioners said in April that they would consider extending the program into later months if needed, a recent survey of impacted lessees shows that at least some Port San Luis businesses are on the road to recovery.

Several Port San Luis businesses that participated in the Lessee Recovery Program saw revenues largely return to 2019 levels in May and June, despite significant losses across the board in March and April.

Fat Cats Café brought in nearly $70,000 less in March of this year compared to March 2019, according to data collected by Harbor Commission staff, and it fell short by more than $110,000 in April. March and April sales this year at Mersea's Seafood Restaurant dropped by more than $114,000 compared to those months last year, and Avila Beach Paddlesports and Port San Luis Boatyard reported similar losses at the beginning of the pandemic. While those four businesses saw sales increase in May and especially in June, two others—Patriot Sportfishing and Wilcox Fisheries—are still struggling.

"... I see both Patriot Sportfishing and Wilcox Fishery significantly down, whereas all the other businesses are up," Commissioner Mary Matakovich said at the July 28 meeting. "And I would like to suggest that those two businesses be continuing in a half rent reduction for the month of June in order to get them back on their feet."

Although Patriot Sportfishing hadn't yet reported its sales numbers from June, its numbers in March, April, and May were all way below those of last year. In April alone, Patriot Sportfishing reported $0 in sales, compared to the $95,554 it generated in the same month last year. From March through June of this year, Wilcox Fisheries fell short by $57,237 compared to those months in 2019. That includes a $25,496 shortfall in June.

Matakovich said that she'd like to see continued support offered to the businesses that are still struggling as SLO County wrestles with increasing cases of COVID-19. She also suggested the Harbor Commission consider offering some kind of assistance to other businesses that might not rent from the Harbor District and thus weren't eligible for the Lessee Recovery Program.

Brad Wilcox, owner of Wilcox Fisheries, echoed Matakovich's concerns, but also said he's not worried about extending the rent deferral program. Business is slowly improving at his fishery, and he said a discount on rent, while helpful, wouldn't go far.

"What I hope you guys understand this reflects is all fishermen," Wilcox said at the meeting.

Fishermen everywhere are struggling, he said, because they were left out of many of the federal and state COVID-19 recovery programs. Most fishermen who work in Port San Luis aren't lessees and didn't qualify for the rent reduction program, and Wilcox suggested that the Harbor Commission "think about your other fishermen."

"Any local government help is needed for the fishing industry," he said, "because we didn't get [relief] like corporations and retail and restaurants and whatnot."

But Jim Blecha, vice president of the Harbor Commission, said that if the commission wants to extend the Lessee Recovery Program to one or two businesses, it should be extended to all. And that, he said, might not be feasible, since the Lessee Recovery Program has already cost the district $28,000, and the district is expecting COVID-19 related shortfalls of about $700,000 total this year.

Still, commissioners agreed to bring a proposal to its finance committee that would extend the recovery program for Wilcox Fisheries and Patriot Sportfishing for further consideration Δ

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