Rising from the ashes

Business community cautiously optimistic as restrictions ease and customers return

SERVED OUTSIDE Sarah Ringler (left) and Ron Ward (right) enjoy an afternoon light meal of flatbread and calamari at MOHI in downtown Morgan Hill. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

The clatter of plates and the chatter of diners are a constant in downtown Morgan Hill and surrounding cities, no matter the situation.

Outdoor dining was once again allowed earlier this year, as Covid-19 cases drop and vaccinations rise.

The pent-up demand for restaurants and other services over the past year due to lockdowns is expected to boil over once constraints are lifted and people can once again enjoy a night on the town.

Could the Roaring ’20s return? It’s too early to tell, but with spring well under way, the business community is cautiously optimistic.

Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce CEO Brittney Sherman said residents are eager to get back to business in a safe manner.

“People have Covid fatigue,” she said. “They’re ready to get out and get back to a sense of normalcy.”

Surveys conducted by the chamber are telling of the community’s sentiment. More than 50 percent of respondents said they would be willing to attend Morgan Hill’s Friday Night Music Series with Covid-safe measures in place, and that was during the heart of the pandemic earlier in 2020, Sherman said, adding that she expects that number to be higher if the survey was conducted today.

An end-of-the-year survey by the chamber showed that 60 percent of businesses said they expect their revenue to increase in 2021. That survey also showed the difficulties businesses faced to stay afloat during the pandemic, with three-quarters of respondents saying they cut wages and hours of their employees.

The businesses also listed financial management, marketing and online sales among the most important issues for 2021.

Sherman said the Morgan Hill Chamber has been serving as a communication hub over the past year, providing businesses with information on where to apply for grants and other assistance programs, while also advocating for them on a state and federal level.

Expanded outdoor dining is likely here to stay long after the pandemic is over, she said. In addition, many businesses are now better prepared for the future, as they have bolstered their websites to accommodate online sales, one of the few bright spots of the pandemic, Sherman added.

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