Small businesses are being killed by their own government

(This article originally appeared in The Washington Times)

This past weekend my wife and I went to see the annual Philly Pops Christmas show and it didn’t disappoint. The music was great. The orchestra was excellent. Even Santa appeared. But unfortunately, something was missing: the audience.

Sure, the show we attended was sold out. But this season, there were only eight shows on the Pops schedule compared to the normal 11–13. The organization, which like many arts organizations, has come off its most devastating year in its history only to face another challenge: not enough people coming to their shows. So they’ve had to cut back.

Philadelphia is a liberal city (Joe Biden won 81% of the presidential vote in 2020). So to stay in favor with this overwhelming majority, most venues require guests to show proof of vaccination. Our government requires masks to be worn at all indoor facilities. It’s not a very cheery place to be right now. Take a drive into the city, and you’ll notice an immediate change of atmosphere from its surroundings: People continue to be hunkered down in COVID-19 hysteria. And it’s about to get worse.

That’s because starting Jan. 3, city officials will require its restaurants, most of them already struggling to recover from the pandemic, to verify proof of vaccination for customers to eat indoors.

“No doubt I think (the new ban on unvaccinated customers) will hurt business,” Vanessa Wong, the owner of Fishtown Social, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. Like I said above, Philadelphia is a liberal city, so Ms. Wong was careful to add that, of course, she “doesn’t disagree with the new mandate” and that she and her six full-time employees “are vaccinated against COVID-19” because God forbid she should admit publicly otherwise.

Most of my clients who own restaurants, stores, fitness center owners and other service businesses are struggling with higher prices, inventory shortages, labor disruption and policing the wearing of masks. Many tell me that they don’t have the manpower to check vaccination cards. And they certainly don’t want to turn customers away. They need them to stay in business. But who wants to come into Philadelphia right now? Frankly, it’s a buzzkill.

This is why approximately 40% of the people in my state who have chosen not to get vaccinated stay local. Sure, they like to eat out. They want to go to shows. They enjoy shopping. And the thousands of small businesses in the city that provide these products and services rely on these visitors for their livelihoods.

But unfortunately, the people who have chosen — freely chosen — not to get vaccinated are literally forbidden from spending money at many of these businesses. Or they have to wear masks. That’s not fun. So instead, they’re sticking to their neighborhoods where the rules are less demanding. Or they’re shopping online and buying their products from Amazon or other big box e-commerce places.

This explains the reduction in Philly Pops Christmas shows, the many empty seats I see in restaurants around town, and the decreased level of foot traffic in the shopping districts this holiday season. And it’s even more onerous for January when the new restrictions take effect. Imagine running a restaurant in Philadelphia with all of these new rules? No, thank you.

Is it fair that unvaccinated people may be taking hospital beds away from others with health issues? Yes, it’s unfair. But it’s no more unfair than anyone else who eats poorly, doesn’t exercise, smokes or freely practices any other risky activity that’s not forbidden by law. That’s their choice, and unless we take away those freedoms, who am I to say that unvaccinated people should have their freedom of choice taken away too? What do I care if I’m eating or going to a concert next to someone who’s unvaccinated? I’m vaccinated. They’ve chosen not to.

That’s up to them.

In the meantime, and amid this new wave of click-seeking media hype concerning the omicron variant (which looks to be even less fatal than previous variants), governments like the one in Philadelphia will cave to the COVID-19 hysteria wrought by a few of the loudest voices and impose even more restrictions. And the small businesses here will suffer because of it.

* Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm specializing in small- and medium-sized companies.

Originally published at https://www.washingtontimes.com on December 21, 3600.

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Columnist on smallbiz, economy, public policy, tech for The Guardian, The Hill, Philly Inquirer, Wash Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur. Small Business owner and CPA

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Gene Marks

Gene Marks

Columnist on smallbiz, economy, public policy, tech for The Guardian, The Hill, Philly Inquirer, Wash Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur. Small Business owner and CPA

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