When Small Businesses Have a Brush With Ebola

Reports of the first Ebola case in New York City have included a detail that could cause anxiety for small business owners. Craig Spencer the 33-year-old doctor recently returned from working with Ebola patients in Guinea, visited a Brooklyn bowling alley before he became aware of his symptoms.

Spencer’s health is obviously the primary concern, but the effects on businesses that come into potential contact (however briefly) with the disease are worth noting.   Gutter, the bowling alley visited by Spencer, plans to reopen quickly. Other businesses have struggled.

Coming Attractions Bridal & Formal, a family-owned business in Akron, has been closed since Oct. 16, after a Dallas nurse who had contracted the virus spent three hours in the shop looking for a wedding dress.  Hazmat cleaning and decontamination has been performed, but despite this precaution the owner said her shop would remain closed until Nov. 4 to let fears die down.

Insurance could cover some losses…business interruption policies cover losses incurred when a business closes because of physical damage from a disaster. It’s common for them to cover businesses that close because of an order of civil authority. A business closed down by health officials could win a claim even if the insurer didn’t view contamination as physical damage.

However, insurance wont cover losses caused by customers’ fears. The manager of Back Country Bar-B-Q, a restaurant located down the road from the Dallas hospital that treated the city’s Ebola cases, told a local TV station that sales fell off 40 percent in the weeks since the case was discovered.



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