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Downtown Sacramento businesses react to state workers returning to office

Businesses waiting for workers to return to the office
Businesses waiting for workers to return to the office 02:33

SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom sent out a letter to cabinet secretaries ordering a return to office for state workers at least two times a week. Agencies and departments are expected to implement the directive starting June 17.

Downtown used to be the place to go. Long lunch lines, friendly hellos, and a greater social atmosphere – could all of that come back with the return of state workers? Some businesses seem to think so.

"During COVID, everybody was ordered to work at home and it just killed the local businesses," said Bob Simms, who was born and raised in Sacramento.

The downtown businesses are still feeling the absence of the state workers post-pandemic.

"A great deal of our customers are state employees. We were busy during the weekdays, so people coming in for lunch, the busiest time of day," said Brad Wakai, owner of downtown's Beach Hut Deli.

Not anymore. Wakai said business has been slow with more people working from home, and they're looking forward to state workers returning to the area.

"It's important for the lifeblood of any restaurant, the customers, and if they're not here, then we can't make it," he said. "You've seen a lot of businesses close in the last couple years."

"The most important thing to us. That's who we've catered to the most, in our twenty years, we're structured around the working people downtown," said Hugo Cervantes, manager of Cilantro's Mexican Restaurant on J Street.

Cilantro's has been open downtown for 20 years. They say the difference in business these last few years has highlighted how much they rely on state workers.

"We're excited," Cervantes said. "[There are] a lot of customers we haven't seen in a long time, just working from home. So we're excited to have them back."

"There's another factor. What about the landlords?" Simms said. "The tenants still have to pay the rent. There's nobody occupying them. Now the landlords are like, 'What are we going to do if they don't ever come back to work?' "

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