Gorge Closure Hits Highway Business

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Businesses are reeling from the devastating impacts of the Thomas Fire mudslides.

At least 17 people have been killed, Highway 101 has been shut down in both directions, and Montecito residents have lost water, power and internet. 

“Business is people's livelihood,” said Steve Epstein, a real estate broker and member of the Coast Village Association. “There are more than a few businesses on Coast Village Road that won't survive this.”

Coast Village Road was hammered with mud and debris, with businesses near Olive Mill Road taking the biggest hit. 

“This whole thing is just insane,” Esptein said.

Even the business that are up and running in Montecito are taking cash only because there’s no internet to accept credit cards.

Many local businesses on Coast Village Road and the rest of Santa Barbara were already financially suffering from the impact of the Thomas Fire, smoke and evacuations in early December.

Some businesses survive every year based on December sales. Those that took a big hit, which was most of them, were counting on January to turn the tables.

However, Highway 101 is closed through Summerland and Montecito through at least Monday, which means shoppers from Los Angeles can’t get to Santa Barbara.

The closure of Highway 101 has also sent employees scrambling to find ways to work.

Carpinteria company Procore, which makes construction management software, split up 80 employees to work at the Impact Hub on State Street and in the Funk Zone this week.

The employees live on the South Coast and weren’t able to get to the office. ​

Procore employs about 1,050 people, and 600 of them work out of the Carpinteria office. 

Kellie Lee, enterprise client coordinator, said working remotely at the Impact Hub has given her a new appreciation of the difficulties of remote working. 

“Communication becomes much more critical,” said Lee, who has worked at Procore for about four years.

Employees from the Summerland-based Graphiq office, which is owned by Amazon, also worked out of the Impact Hub offices this week. 

Ken Oplinger, president and CEO of the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region, said the impacts to businesses are huge.

“It is catastrophic,” Oplinger said.

Businesses are flooded out and some of them have several feet of mud inside. Even after the highway opens, some businesses on Coast Village Road will be closed for the foreseeable future.

“Businesses sort of feeling like we keep taking punches,” Oplinger said. “It is yet another issue at a time when people were starting to chart a course forward on how to recover from a bad holiday season.”

There are ferry services between Ventura and Santa Barbara harbors and Amtrak resumed rail service Thursday, though Highway 101 is still closed. 

Several local hotels are offering discounts to displaced residents

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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BizHawk: Businesses Severely Hit by Montecito Mudslides, Highway 101 Closure
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