OC’s restaurant industry responds to reduced California restrictions
MToday’s announcement of the relaxation of restaurant restrictions has sparked mixed feelings among professionals in the restaurant industry. In the days that followed, decisions had to be made on how to move forward. Staffing and inclement weather were just two of the factors to consider.
As of January 25, the regional stay-at-home order ends as intensive care projections exceed the capacity level by 15%. This also ends the limited stay at home order. Orange County remains in the most restrictive purple level. According to Blueprint for a more secure economy, restaurants on the purple level are allowed to be open to the outdoors with alterations, take-out, and delivery service only.
After asking four companies personally affected by these restrictions, it is clear that there is a tension between reluctance and relief. Restaurant owners are eager to reopen, but don’t think they can stay open.
Bobby Navarro, founder of 100inc agency, and his team specialize in event marketing and social media. With several restaurant and retail brands as customers, Navarro takes note of the gastronomic landscape as a whole.
“I don’t think the average consumer, or state and local politicians, really envision the impact of this ‘open and close’ strategy on the restaurant industry,” Navarro said. “Without any guidance from the county and little or no financial support for struggling businesses after nearly a year, these restaurants have to open, but at what cost? Our restaurant clients, such as 4th street market and its tenants, have suffered some of the biggest blows of their lives and we can only hope this opening arrives in time to make a difference.
“It’s not the chains and fast food restaurants that will suffer; it is the family businesses that have invested body and soul in their dream that will be the most affected.
Golden route pub
Sara O’Shea is Managing Director of Golden road pub location in front of Angel Stadium. Hailing from Los Angeles, GR’s footprint is considerably larger than your typical tasting room. Fortunately, the on-site brasserie was built not only for plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, but also offers lunch and dinner service. Brasseries and bars without a catering menu already in place were forced to temporarily close or quickly integrate a catering service. O’Shea oversees a team of staff at the front and back of the house.
“Golden Road is extremely happy to reopen for alfresco dining, once again welcoming the public with open arms and a cold beer,” said O’Shea. “We look forward to all the possibilities to come this year, with safety protocols in mind for customers, including social distancing outside seating, mandatory use of PPE for employees and additional disinfection stations in all premises.
“Last year has been pretty hectic, but our hard-working team have been so resilient, which allowed us to roll with all the curved balls thrown in our path. Due to the closure, business has been slower than usual, but we hope to rebound quickly knowing that we are able to greet our guests safely outside.
Brian Clark and his wife Nasim are co-owners Everyday restaurant in Irvine: a breakfast, lunch, brunch and coffee establishment. Originally open in fall 2019, the restaurant has a loyal following from surrounding businesses, as well as local neighborhoods on weekends despite being a business park destination and day-only hours. As a new business owner before COVID, adjusting to updated protocols has proven difficult at times.
“We are happy to see things come back in the direction of a reopening,” said Clark. “Eating on real plates with real knives and forks, even if it’s outside right now, has always been part of the experience we wanted to give Everyday Eatery. It will be a challenge to rebuild our systems to accommodate both here and take out, but the presentation looks better on real plates, and we look forward to it.
Previously associated with the Packing House a few blocks away, Ying Adamson is co-owner of Etching Anaheim. This tiki-themed underground bar with a kitchen debuted in late 2019. Due to the layout of the surrounding businesses, it was forced to offer only take-out service. Adamson’s point of view is one that many small businesses struggle with.
“Being a restaurant owner right now is more than difficult. You have a decision to make for the safety of your team, guests, and family, in addition to trying to stay alive both literally and figuratively. There is a moral dilemma for me; I just can’t let someone die under my leadership, ”said Adamson. “It may sound extreme, but it’s the truth. Personally, I think the mandate is lifted too early. It allows more people to come out, gives them the green light. Yes, it’s a limited capacity, but who is really patrolling or watching? Saving restaurants has not been on the political agenda. There are grants, PPPs, loans, etc., but that won’t cut it. More needs to be done as we move to the new standard, whatever that may imply.
“We will probably open outside because we have to maintain, but we only offer the pickup and the outside seating. I am working with the City of Anaheim to enlarge the patio on a closed lot, allowing it to be properly space out. I do not have a terrace or parking nearby. I just have a sidewalk, and we’ve been creative and nimble throughout COVID. Our relevance to our customers has kept us alive. They value the security of our operations, often telling us that they don’t feel safe elsewhere. Even when inside (dinner) was allowed, we never opened seats inside. When the exterior was cleared, we continued to offer only the sidewalk. In August, our “Fairadise” (think fair meets tiki) themed menu was our chance to see if the safe sidewalk seating worked, and it did. We continued to sit outside until term in late 2020.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t want restaurants to survive, because I want to. Each person finds how to overcome this battle as they see fit. For me, safety will always come first. Money can be made and is replaceable. People are not.
An increase in vaccinations as additional sites are activated, combined with planned projections, means COVID statistics will continue to change through the week. How the government responds to this change will dictate the future of private and private food businesses.
Anne Marie Panoringan is a food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at [email protected]