The underground COVID economy: Businesses say they sidestepped rules to survive

The businesses appeared closed, but there were telltale signs of life: light seeping out from behind boarded-up windows, customers coming and going through employee entrances, Instagram posts alluding to in-home appointments.

The COVID-19 shutdown orders imposed in March and again during the holidays crippled large swaths of the California economy. But even before an easing of restrictions announced this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, some business owners continued to carry on covertly. In Los…

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