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Turlock businesses try to stay afloat under restrictive tier
covid business pic
Like many gyms throughout Stanislaus County, Brenda Athletics Club has returned to outdoor operations as the area moved back into the state's purple tier of coronavirus restrictions. - photo by Photo Contributed
Just as local businesses got used to the idea of having customers inside of their establishments once more, Stanislaus County was pushed back into the purple, more restrictive tier of reopening on Monday — and patrons were pushed back outside.

After moving back into the red tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy on Oct. 13, restaurants, gyms, retail shops and countless other businesses rejoiced as patrons could eat, work out and shop in a less restrictive setting once more — albeit at lower capacity levels.

For a few weeks, the Turlock economy showed signs of resurgence and normalcy as Stanislaus County remained in the red tier, with diners enjoying meals indoors and gym goers returning to the treadmills at gyms as the temperature outdoors steadily dropped. As COVID-19 cases surge both locally and statewide, however, Monday saw Newsom place 41 counties back into the purple tier, Stanislaus County included.

The announcement wasn’t a complete shock, as Stanislaus County was placed in the purple tier by the state last week but had appealed the decision. Monday saw those hopes come to an end.

Now, gyms and fitness centers can operate outside only and restaurants must return to serving patrons in an outdoor setting. Retailers must operate at 25% capacity (back down from 50% in the red tier) and churches must close their pews off to the public once again. There are countless businesses the new — yet old — restrictions have affected, like Brenda Athletics Club, which is hoping customers will continue to pay for their memberships even as they’re forced to work out in the cold.

“Recently with the back and forth of tiers from purple to red and back to purple, it’s forced us to think on our toes. We want to be able to make sure we’re open and providing as much as we can for our members and staff,” said Elizabeth Brenda, marketing manager for BAC. “It’s definitely a struggle, but we’re taking it as we can. We play with the cards that we’re dealt.”

As the weather becomes colder in Turlock, Brenda said the gym is looking into the possibility of purchasing extra heaters and tents so that members are comfortable while working out. They saw the purple tier designation coming as daily numbers were released by the county, she said, so they’ve had some time to prepare.

Nowadays, the gym’s tennis courts and pool area resemble outdoor training centers, with weightlifting equipment, cardio machines and more placed where state guidelines permit. Despite the change in scenery, BAC members have been more appreciative than ever.

“It’s a little disappointing to have to go back outside because we had just been able to open back up indoors and our members were excited,” Brenda said. “We’ve had so many members who are super supportive and stuck with us this whole time. They’ve been so understanding through everything and kind to our staff. That's what we love — we love to be able to provide this for our members and we love that they’ve been able to bear with us during this time.”

This is the second time the Ten Pin Fun Center has welcomed customers back inside only to be let down shortly after. In June, the family entertainment center welcomed bowlers, diners and gamers back into the building for just two short days before the county closed indoor operations once more. Although this time there were no bowlers, closing down the indoor space for Ten Pin’s restaurant, Deadwood Social, and other events hurt just as badly.

“It just takes the wind out of your sail,” Ten Pin Director of Sales and Marketing Stephanie Valgos said.

Ten Pin has been without the facets of its operation which account for over 60 percent of its business for nearly nine months now, like the bowling lanes, arcade games and laser tag attractions. With just the restaurant open, Valgos said the business has taken advantage of its spacious patio to host events like dueling pianos, comedy nights and cornhole tournaments to make ends meet.

When the county was in the red tier, Valgos was even able to host socially-distanced events inside of the large building as the weather cooled down. Ten Pin recently hosted a succulent workshop that saw tables spread out throughout the expanse of the restaurant and bowling alley, but Valgos was forced to cancel a paint night planned for Thursday after hearing the news that the county was back in the purple tier.

Ten Pin General Manager Mike Eggert put it bluntly, stating he’s “sick of the color purple.” The bowling alley’s finances are week-to-week, he said, and Ten Pin recently applied for the City of Turlock’s Small Business Relief Grant Program. Applications for the program are being accepted through the end of November and can be found at
“We’re just dumbfounded. It’s maddening for us,” Eggert said. “All of us have put so much blood, sweat and tears into this center and it’s going on nine months now that we’ve been closed...It’s been very emotionally draining, but the community has been so supportive.”

Eggert said Ten Pin may invest in tents to cover its patio and purchase more heaters to continue attracting the large number of customers it saw over the summer. It’s not a simple purchase during such financially-strained times, he said.

“We’re struggling. I’ve had to make adjustments,” Eggert said. “The community just can’t wait for us to open, and that’s what’s getting us over the hump.”

Like most other businesses, he added that the entertainment center is hoping for another stimulus package to pass at the federal level — but promised that Ten Pin would make it through the tough times.

“We’ve reached out to our local officials and are asking, ‘Please, help us. You guys have mandated us to close. Please, please help us.”