Despite closures ordered by Mayor Upchurch businesses fight to stay open

St Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch announced coronavirus business closures Tuesday, but in an interview with First Coast News yesterday, he admitted that it felt counterintuitive.

Americans are capitalists, and nowhere is capitalism more prevalent than in the business of tourism.  The talent to sell the sizzle, not the steak.  Showing hospitality to visitors who are miles away from home and who want to feel welcome as they discover America’s oldest city.  It takes a tremendous commitment and investment of capital to achieve the success that drives our local tourist economy. 

“We have absolutely gorgeous weather, it’s Spring Break for many colleges, for school districts. The beaches are beautiful, the weather is beautiful, most people feel great,” Upchurch observed when he announced the closures Tuesday.

When a government steps in, whether through our president, our governor, or local mayor, and announces that licensed, privately owned and legally operating businesses must shut down for extended periods of time, it sends a shiver down the spine of every entrepreneur within earshot.

“Counterintuitive” becomes an understatement when we are talking about arresting the free enterprise system that has provided the capital to establish and defend this country since its founding.

Our beautiful beaches, active lifestyles and comfortable climate may fill the stands.  But it is our hospitality and tourism employees who still must sell the popcorn. 

They are suffering the pain of lost wages, and in some cases lost jobs, as businesses are forced to shut down — ostensibly to contain the spread of this so-called “Chinese virus”.  Some speculate that our response to the virus may cause more injury to our nation than the virus itself.

Shops and restaurants can still draw hundreds of visitors — for the time being. But, with the franchised sightseeing trains and trolleys ordered to shut down, and the mayor closing all bars and ending restaurant liquor sales, life here cannot be sustained. 

The Ancient City is already moving at a decidedly slower pace.