Tens of thousands of downtown small businesses that have been scraping by were eagerly awaiting the week of Labor Day, when many companies expected that their employees would return to the office.
Now, the Covid-19 Delta variant is dashing hopes that workers will be back in large numbers, causing these business owners to scramble again to make rent payments and keep their operations alive.
Some are scaling back staff hours, postponing hiring or making additional cuts so they can hold on. Others say they are ready to shut their doors for good if return-to-work plans fizzle in the coming weeks.
“They were hanging on by their fingernails to get to September,” said Bob Luz, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “We’re greatly concerned they’re not going to make it.”
The survival of corner retail stores, coffee shops and restaurants is being watched closely by office-building owners, who are counting on traditional work patterns to resume as Covid-19 subsides. The success of the work-from-home trend threatens their cash flow and property values.