Man, remember the halcyon days of walking into a store and buying whatever toilet paper you wanted without giving it a second thought? Those were good times, and while most of us will emerge from this pandemic mostly unscathed, some of our favorite small businesses probably won't. While we're dutifully staying home and washing our hands, here are a few industries left in shambles in coronavirus' wake ...
If you're on the hunt for pandemic-themed films to binge, Outbreak was basically the 90's version of Contagion. During the course of its story, it teaches two important live-lessons that are still (mostly) relevant. 1) That Academy Award winners Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr. shooting the monkey from Friends in the ass with a tranq dart is objectively hilarious:
And 2) Someone coughing in a movie theater can make you bleed from your eyes. While it's true that coronavirus isn't an ebola-esque hemorrhagic fever, it's pretty obvious that you can't do much isolating or social distancing in front of a big screen. Which is the reason why virtually every movie theater in America is closed right now -- and sadly many of them may never reopen.
Don't fret, you'll still be able to see movies ... you just might be seeing a lot more of them at home. Many of the large theater companies will survive, but exactly what "survival" looks like remains to be seen. Sadly, for the older, independently owned, arthouse-type theaters the future showings might never come.
It's not like the profit margin for indie theaters was awesome at the best of times, and with bills to pay and no money coming in, there's a limit to how long they can stay closed. The buildings that are already paid off stand a better chance than those trying to scrape together a mortgage payment with no income. Many of them are heroically still trying to pay staff, while hoping that once quarantines are lifted people will swarm to theaters ready to make up for the lost time. And we hope so too, as we're spending this time writing our indy-script, Outbreak II, where Academy Award winner Tom Hanks shoots a bat from Batman Begins in the ass with a tazer.
Generally, going to a wrestling event doubles as going into a giant sweaty, germy, petri dish. When WWE decided to make WrestleMania 36 a closed event with only essential personnel (ie: no audience), indie wrestlers were the ones who got pinned. Forced to cancel shows and activities planned in conjunction with the main event, the independent wrestling community was dealt a "devastating financial blow" that one organizer likened to "-- five years of work being wiped away."
Unfortunately, things are likely to get even worse. Since COVID-19 seems to be taking its sweet time leg-dropping humanity, a slew of future events are going to get axed next. WrestleMania weekend might be the best-known and most lucrative shows for indies, but their season is year-long, and proceeds from one event pay for the next, and so on. Plus, the (non-virus) exposure gained at an event like WrestleMania is a massive boon to struggling independent wrestlers in terms of merchandise sales, future bookings, and a chance to put themselves on the global wrestling radar.
While looking at the money that could have been made is plenty sad, looking at the money lost is even worse. Event organizers are saddled with refunding ticket sales while fighting with convention centers, hotels, and equipment rental companies in hopes of getting their own deposits returned. In some cases, a government-mandated cancellation would actually be helpful, as it would trigger provisions in contracts that require refunds that aren't required for non-mandatory cancellations. We're basically dinging people for doing the right thing on their own, like a shitty ref that didn't see corona hit promoters with a steel chair.
Even if you're not an overly-anxious germaphobe, the idea of attending a nerd convention -- where hygiene can be questionable best -- should strike you as a bad idea these days. While July's San Diego Comic-Con is still a "go" ... for now, a host of fan conventions and events have already been canceled. It's unfortunate for the public, but it's tragic for the artists, small businesses, service workers, and others who depend on these events as their primary source of income. When events are canceled, even if that's absolutely the right thing to do, it's a massive financial hit for all involved. And if virus-related cancellations continue long-term then the massive convention boom, that geeks currently enjoy, could regress back to the basements of the '80s and '90s as big exhibitors are forced to pursue other lines of work to stay afloat.
And it's not just comic-cons -- as Renaissance Festivals, your source of giant turkey legs and mead, around the country are in a similarly rocky boat. Organizers of the canceled Virginia Renaissance Faire expressed their concern and support, saying "Our Faire will be fine -- but the artisans and performers who help bring our Faire to life are being terribly impacted by this loss of income." In the announcement, they encouraged fans and would-be faire-goers to take whatever funds would have been spent at the faire and use them to support the struggling artists. Reedpop made a similar promise to their exhibitors after they were forced to cancel Miami's Florida Supercon, saying "We will do everything that we can over the coming weeks to highlight your work so that as a community we can come together to support you."
So if you're a lover of faire or con culture and have any pennies left over after stocking up on easy-mac, maybe consider throwing some support to an artist or exhibitor who's hurting.
Unless you're one of the damned, stuck circling the world on a COVID-infected cruise ship, coronavirus has likely sent your vacation directly down the crapper (Along with your last bit of toilet paper). And while you might not immediately associate pet sitting with the currently-gasping tourism industry, the whole concept depends on people 1) having pets and 2) not being at home. As you might have grasped, it's that second part that's recently become a problem. Since people are suddenly working from home and quarantined, pet sitters are fresh out of lonely guinea pigs and puppies to feed and care for.
In large cities, dog walkers are facing a similar problem. Turns out, after a few weeks of being stuck in stay-at-home hell, walking the dog suddenly becomes the highlight of people's socially-isolated day and a "chore" that beleaguered family members will readily fist-fight over. Those dog walkers who aren't completely out of business are surviving on the goodwill of loyal (and presumably well-off) clients who haven't canceled their service out of kindness (Or maybe just need a break from being bombarded with dog farts).
Let's be clear, you'll all need barbers and stylists in the post-apocalypse to fix whatever dipshit haircut you tried to give yourself -- whether or not your former cutters are there to do it remains to be seen. Generally, unless LeBron is shooting shows in there, most hair salons and barbershops aren't making bank on a good day. Add forced closures, along with public fear to that equation, and there's a good chance some establishments may simply never reopen.
For owners, there's the question of how to keep up with rent or mortgage payments when shut down. And if a closure isn't mandated, they're left to weigh the pros and cons of staying open and letting barbers and stylists earn what they can. Others try to find a middle ground, "cutting" costs while things are kinda hairy.
Stylists and barbers themselves are in a similarly sticky situation. Social distancing guidelines are pretty much out the window when you're trimming someone's hair, so they're forced to weigh their need to earn money against their need to not land in the hospital. Unless you know how to get fat hazmat suit gloves through scissor handles, each client is a risk with a well-aimed sneeze or cough. And while some workers are actually employees, the majority are independent contractors who rent a station or booth from the shop/salon owner -- meaning there's no such thing as job security or group health insurance if things really go south. So, yeah, look for buzzcuts and failure bangs to really take off as the "it looks" this fall.
Top Image: Dragon Images/Shutterstock