Permanent business closures begin on Guam

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) —  Some businesses have started shutting their doors for good, and more are at risk over the next several weeks if the coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions persist.

Froots, which serves fresh smoothies, salads and wraps, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 business restrictions since March and at this time does not foresee reopening its Hagåtña branch.

"Unfortunately, our Agana Shopping Center branch won't be able to reopen," said Paula Jae Cruz, Froots store owner and general manager.

While Froots employees were initially temporarily out of a job because the Agana Shopping Center had to close starting on March 20, Cruz said they were able to provide a minimum three weeks' salary to their employees.

"We're trying our best to help our employees," Cruz said. "Unfortunately, at this time, we don't see us reopening the Hagåtña branch."

Froots applied for the first round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, but the program ran out of federal funds.

Froots management says the Agana Shopping Center location will close. Photo by Haruo Simon/ The Guam Daily Post

Cruz said they're hoping the second round of PPP funding will give Froots a chance to continue its presence on Guam, at least with its Andersen Air Force Base branch in Yigo.

Tony Roma's also permanently shut its doors at the Agana Shopping Center due, in part, to the coronavirus pandemic. It maintains its Tumon location.

While many restaurants have stayed open or reopened but only for to-go or curbside pickup service, others have decided to remain closed until the governor lifts her executive order.

Other restaurants such as Ban Thai Guam in Tumon tried to stay open despite the restrictions, by offering to-go services in late March, only to temporarily close the whole restaurant by mid-April.

"It was not an easy decision and we thank you for your understanding during this difficult time," the restaurant said on its social media account. Ban Thai said it hopes "to be back up and running in the near future."

Bobby Shringi, a former board chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, said without lifting restrictions especially on businesses deemed nonessential, many of these businesses may not be able to recover at all.

They have not been operating since mid-March, so the financial impact is concerning, he said.

"If there's no support given to them, they could be seeing permanent closures or bankruptcy filing," said Shringi, who is the Guam and outer region sales and marketing manager for Moylan's Insurance Underwriters Inc.

Businesses deemed essential such as grocery stores, hardware stores and restaurants, although at limited operations, have seen good business for the most part, he said.

Catherine Castro, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, said business closures depend on how long the shutdown lasts.

Monte Mesa, general manager for Guam Premier Outlets, said if retail businesses are not allowed to reopen after several more weeks, then at least 30% of locally owned and locally franchised businesses may not be able to recover at all and will be forced to close shops for good.

"It could be a disaster mostly for our local businesses," Monte said. "They don't have the same liquidity as the big national stores do."

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero extended the public health emergency for 30 days, to June 5.

But some of the restrictions on the public during the Covid-19 pandemic may be lifted by May 9. It could allow the reopening of some nonessential businesses, such as retail stories and real estate business. Allowing restaurant patrons to dine in is still under review.

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