Instead of watching and helping his staff assist customers climbing indoor rock walls Monday, Steve Baranski was busy filling out a state grant application.
Baranski, owner of the Boulder Yard south of Frederick's city limits, recently laid off 19 employees because of the coronavirus, as Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced earlier this month that all gyms must close to the public.
He wants any assistance he can get, so he can pay his bills: rent, utilities and other costs of owning an indoor rock climbing gym.
And of course, any assistance he can pay his laid-off employees.
"I’m not asking for enough money to start up a business. I’m asking for enough to survive. ... I need to be able to give them something now," Baranski said.
Baranski, like several other small-business owners countywide likely will be, was applying for grants through the state's Department of Commerce. Hogan and senior state officials announced Monday that small businesses of 50 employees or less can apply for up to $10,000 in grant money, or up to $50,000 in loans, at a rate of zero percent interest for the first 12 months.
"I’m just glad he [Hogan] opened up something, because the federal one is taking forever," Baranski said of applying for state versus federal assistance.
Initially, some business owners wondered if they would still be allowed to operate as an "essential" business. Hogan announced that all non-essential businesses must close at 5 p.m.
That included Tom Rinker and Tom Peperone, who own The Bicycle Escape and Wheel Base Bikes, respectively, in Frederick.
Both argued that because some people use bicycles to get around, and because they are now a way for people to exercise amid all gyms shutting down, that bike shops should be considered essential.
They added they were taking precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus: practicing social distancing, limiting the number of people in the shop and sanitizing counters and high-traffic areas.
"I just feel very strongly we are a very important part of the community in terms of getting people to go to work and [parents] taking the kids for a bike ride," Peperone said. "There are a lot of people that depend on us."
Mike Ricci, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email Monday that bike shops were exempt from Hogan's executive order.
Both Rinker and Peperone said they've been busy the past few weeks, but Rinker added he would investigate the loan and grant opportunities Monday evening, should business slow down or if further restrictions are imposed.
"Survival is the name of the game right now," Rinker said.
For restaurants, however, carryout and delivery are their only current modes of income, as Hogan ordered them and bars to halt dine-in service.
That has led to layoffs and a need for the aforementioned grant and loan money for many businesses.
Aaron Neider, general manager of the Tasting Room in Frederick, said it has been "chaotic" at work as he and his colleagues have changed the restaurant's business model due to the coronavirus.
That includes a pop-up meat market, and selling wine and handcrafted cocktails to go, Neider said. The restaurant's accountant is reviewing the loan and grant opportunities, he added.
"Any money is good. … We’re just living say to day, we don’t know what to expect as this continues to play out, it’s just uncharted territory," Neider said.
Abed Alkteifan, owner of Potomac Street Grill in Brunswick, said despite some layoffs recently, he's been able to stay afloat through carryout and delivery service.
But the longer he's closed for dine-in service, the more difficult that will become, he said — and those grant and loan opportunities will be more important.
"If it’s like a matter of weeks, we’re going to survive it," Alkteifan said. "If it's going to be a month, we’re going to need help."
Some upcounty restaurants are in the same predicament. That includes Thurmont Kountry Kitchen.
Sherry Myers, owner of the restaurant, said she's laid off about 17 people of about a 23-person staff to stay afloat. She thanked the community for its support in the past few weeks, as the eatery has provided delivery and carryout service.
"We'll probably look into both options. … Probably more of the grant, just needing that little bump to get through this," Myers said of the loan or grant opportunities offered by the state. "Within a few months, hopefully, everything will be back to normal."
Right up U.S. 15 in Emmitsburg, Susan Glass, co-owner of Ott House, has also had to lay off staff because of the coronavirus.
Glass said she saw some of Hogan's announcement, but would review the loan and grant opportunities further.
There are costs even with a downsized staff, she said: keeping the lights on, gas for the grills and food — even with a limited menu.
Like Myers, she thanked the community for its support in the past few weeks.
"We’re not panicked at this point. I think we’re going to look at all options to keep ourselves afloat and be able to open back up," Glass said.
Depending on how long restaurants are closed, however, it could put a damper on a notable anniversary, she added.
"In June, we'll be open for 50 years, so we kind of put the hold on that celebration," Glass said with a laugh.