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To our Augie’s Coffee community,
As it has for every hospitality-based business the world over, COVID-19 presented us with issues we never expected, and were not equipped to deal with. After 11 years of serving coffee and building relationships across the Inland Empire, our family is devastated that we have been forced to close our stores as a direct result of this coronavirus and its threat to the health of our customers, staff, and communities.
While we understand the concerns some have shared regarding closures and a union effort, unionization played no role in the outcome. This is the hardest decision we have ever faced, and though the PPP loan helped us to stay open eight weeks longer than we would have otherwise, the reality we’re facing is that we have limited cash reserves and California is in the midst of a major spike of COVID-19 infections which includes a number of confirmed cases among employees at other local businesses. It was a matter of time until Augie’s saw COVID-19 infections among staff and customers as well, and preventing this was the main factor behind the final decision to close.
We recognize why employees are upset, and we wish there was another way. We cannot thank everyone on the Augie’s team enough for all they’ve done to help us succeed during better times, and to help us try to stay open through COVID-19. Sadly, nothing any of us on the team could do was enough to prevent the massive, prolonged impact of the virus on our small business.
We’re unsure what the future holds for Augie’s Coffee as a company. Right now we’re taking it day by day, and exploring alternate business models outside of the retail space to continue operating. We appreciate your support over the years, and as always we welcome your questions, comments, or concerns.
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To our former team members, we are sorry.
When we brought you into the Augie’s Team, we wanted to provide a place to work and a connection to the community all through the lens of great coffee. Throughout this COVID-19 induced series of events over these last 120 days we have let you down.
We have closed all of our retail locations. These closures are indefinite due to COVID-19. This decision is not a response to union organization, but an attempt at surviving physically, mentally, and economically.
We are devastated that we could not keep our doors open at our retail locations to provide for team members and our community in the same way we have for over 11 years.
Our PPP loan has helped us to stay open over the past 8 weeks. It provided for all of us during this emergency when our sales would not have. We do not have cash reserves, we do not own our locations, and we do not have a retail model that works during a global pandemic.
This is the hardest decision we have ever made and it would be reckless of us to make promises to anyone, we honestly can't even promise that Augie’s will survive this. To address the question of how long had we planned the closure, we made the decision on Friday. Our communities have been fortunate to have avoided numerous cases of COVID-19 but recently it has hit our neighborhoods quickly and significantly. For example, Darby’s and Kluddes have shut their operations down after staff contracted COVID-19. Their proximity to our two Redlands stores is concerning and contributed to this decision.
Governor Newsom made statements Wednesday, July 1st, pulling back on dine-in operations and predicting going back to Phase 1. With that in mind, we didn’t see how we could make it through another wave of this. When the pandemic first started, many of our Redlands staff felt uncomfortable coming into work, relying heavily on the 2.0 staff to fill in scheduling. We felt that it was only a matter a time before someone in one of our locations contracted the virus, which we felt would cause a domino effect of staff feeling unsafe to come into work.
Last month, a manager stepped down. Last week on Wednesday night (July 1) another manager resigned. On Friday (July 3) we had a manager tell us that another employee was quarantined waiting for their test results, and other staff had been refusing to cover shifts (rightfully so) because it would interfere with unemployment benefits. These challenges are not sustainable for retail cafe operations.
At the end of the day, we were greatly conflicted. We had been criticised for remaining open during the pandemic, and now more than ever we felt that with the cases rising so significantly in our communities, it was best to put safety first and close down our retail operations. We hope that you will understand the place we came from, and how hard these decisions were to make for us.
We had experienced some positive dialogue from individual staff while handing out last checks at Riverside and Claremont. The hostility and threats we experienced at 2.0, and continue to receive have prevented any dialogue from taking place to date.
The bottom line here is that this was a decision that was not taken lightly. It is strictly based on the continued effect and threat of COVID-19 on our employees, on our customers, and our business.