The survey administered by the Downtown Austin Alliance was accessible to business owners from April 9-19. Respondents included bars, restaurants, performance venues, nonprofits, professional services and retail stores.
According to the report compiled by the Downtown Austin Alliance, 84% of business owners have seen at least three-fourths of their business disappear, more than 70% have laid off or furloughed employees, and 20.8% said they will have to close if the orders remain as they are for another month. An additional 59.7% of business owners said they would be at risk of closing if the orders continue for another two to three months.
“The livelihood of these businesses in downtown Austin, and in turn the vitality of downtown, is currently at risk,” said Dewitt Peart, the president and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance.
On April 27, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the reopening of some businesses May 1 at 25% capacity, including restaurants, a decision Mayor Steve Adler said “may have gone too far.”
Peart, who is a member of a local task force to guide the reopening of businesses in the Austin area in a safe and responsible manner, said permission is only part of the equation—customer behavior will be another major factor.
“We are anxious to see what the consumer confidence is when the businesses open, what the traffic looks like. Obviously for retail, pedestrian traffic is the lifeblood. We have no idea how this will play out,” he said.
Half of the downtown business owners who responded to the survey said they could reopen their business immediately upon orders being lifted, but they also expressed concerns about customer behavior. With local hotels closed and tourism traffic way down, Peart said even if the area were fully open for business, revenue would still take a hit.
“I think it’s going to take a little while, to be honest with you, until we see any significant change. It may take a few weeks before we see storefronts opening again,” Peart said. “We just don’t have the pedestrian foot traffic to support businesses open.”