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Border, Pandemic Restrictions Hitting San Ysidro Businesses Hard

In San Ysidro, Sunny Perfumes and Maya’s Gourmet Pizza owner Sunil Gakhreja sits outside his shop on Dec. 11, 2020.
Matthew Bowler
In San Ysidro, Sunny Perfumes and Maya’s Gourmet Pizza owner Sunil Gakhreja sits outside his shop on Dec. 11, 2020.

Restrictions on non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico will continue through at least until Jan. 21, 2121, because of COVID-19, according to federal officials.

The announcement Friday means South Bay businesses relying on cross-border travel will suffer through the holiday season.

Border, Pandemic Restrictions Hitting San Ysidro Businesses Hard
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"This is a border town," said Sunil Gakhreja, the owner of Sunny Perfumes and Maya's Gourmet Pizza, just steps away from the border in San Ysidro.

"We depend mostly on that side mostly," Gakhreja said, gesturing toward Mexico. "Not everything, but mostly so if people aren’t crossing, who are we going to sell to?"

Gakhreja said he is likely down more than 60% from a normal year.

"I don't even compare it," he said. "It’s too bad — very bad — I don't check my books this year. There is no point."

Gakhreja relies on the holiday season to bring in the bulk of his sales at his perfume shop.

"That’s the one moneymaker right now this month, and nothing going on," he said. "Last year if you were to come in December time, you can't even walk straight, there’s no parking."

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The border is a lifeline for many businesses in San Ysidro. Gakhreja estimates as much as 90% of his sales come from Mexico.

"Now they have to rely on other people to cross, so they’re sending someone for the perfume place," he said.

Last year, he opened up Maya’s Gourmet Pizza next door to his perfume shop, but businesses there has not been easy either with months of COVID-19 restrictions.

"One business — then you open up another business — you want to do good and grow but now instead of growing you’re going down," Gakhreja said.

VIDEO: Border, Pandemic Restrictions Hitting San Ysidro Businesses Hard

Gakhreja recently put in two patios, but under California's new regional stay-at-home order outdoor dining is prohibited.

"Ridiculous — that's the word," he said reacting to the new restrictions. "Doesn't make sense. You’ve been training us for nine months, this is how you do it, we're following everything now suddenly say you can't even do that."

He has had to layoff three employees but does not want to close.

"We have to hold it," Gakhreja said. "I invested so much — I’m invested financially and emotionally — I cannot let it go."

Gakhreja is hopeful news of a vaccine will bring in business, but realizes it’s going to be a long recovery. He said by now, people know how to protect themselves from the virus and he wishes officials would allow more people to cross into the United States.