“We had to make the call,” said Denny Knox, executive director of Ocean Beach MainStreet Association. “We just couldn’t commit to signing a contract. The risk is too great. What if the City decided we all had to go back in for two weeks, and we were right in the middle of it?”
Added Knox: “Plus we have less than two months to stage it. We’d never pull it off. It takes a lot of money to stage that event … and we don’t really know what the rules are going to be. How would you run a special event like a street fair if you were required to have 25% fewer people? The timing was just really bad so we said better safe than sorry.”
Every year, the Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off features food booths, art, beachfront entertainment, and shopping. The chili competition showcases tastings from amateur entrants competing for the titles of Hottest Chili, Judges' Award, and People's Choice Award.
OBMA had more than hinted two weeks ago that the event, like nearly all large-scale events region-wide including Comic-Con and the San Diego County State Fair, would be canceled for 2020 due to pandemic safety concerns.
Previously, Knox noted the summertime classic street fair makes up 80% of OBMA’s budget that finances all the extra community work the business improvement district does, all the murals, all the banners around town. “I’m not sure how we’ll replace the lost income, at this point,” Knox said.
Concerning how OBMA will attempt to make up such a shortfall, Knox said, “We’re working on it, but it’s a slow process to figure out how to reinvent yourself like every other business has had to do.”
OBMA’s executive director noted its also tough to plan ahead because everything with the pandemic is a moving target. “You just don’t have a date when everything might be back to normal,” Knox said, adding, "It’s going to be a struggle, and it’s going to look different than we’ve seen in it in the past,” of daily business operations once things return to some degree of normal.
On a more positive note, Knox said they’re working on bringing the OB Farmers Market, which has been on hiatus due to the pandemic, back likely by the end of May or early June.
Knox added she’s also encouraged by the response of merchants in OB, whom she said have been “amazingly creative” in refitting their business models. “Ragland went right to curbside service right away and remade themselves as a take-out place,” she noted. “Dirty Birds did the same thing. And those companies have giving-back programs.
“It’s so nice to see how generous our businesses are even in this kind of terrible situation,” continued Knox. “Steve Yeng has been incredibly generous to all kinds of groups, and they’re really working hard to keep people employed.”
And Knox pointed out that, slowly but surely, businesses that have been closed are gradually being allowed to come back online.
There are other encouraging signs. “I’m sure people are getting sick of cooking at home,” said Knox, who suggested some businesses are going to come back even stronger.
“I think many of them are going to branch out a little bit, have a much stronger online presence, so they can weather things like this,” Knox said. “It’s been interesting seeing people get together, and do things together, and cross-promote.”
Knox relayed an interesting quote she’d heard which summarizes ongoing efforts to adapt to the pandemic.
“Somebody said this whole situation is like building an airplane while you’re flying it,” she said. “That’s such a funny statement, but it’s so true.”