Business owners across Pasadena are preparing for a second round of stay-at-home orders issued by state health officials — this time limited to nighttime hours — that take effect Saturday night.
Locally the Pasadena Department of Public Health revised its health order Wednesday to require restaurants, breweries and bars to shut down outdoor service and dining areas between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., effective Friday. Personal care services that require customers or staff to remove their masks, such as shaves and facials, were disallowed, and personal care businesses were limited to 25% capacity.
New restrictions from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health went a bit further, extending the business curfew through 6 a.m., mandating that outdoor restaurants, breweries and wineries be limited to 50% capacity and requiring businesses allowed to operate indoors to operate at no more than 25% capacity. But the county order did not affect Pasadena, which is governed by its own public health agency.
Then new statewide restrictions announced Thursday by the California Department of Public Health, “requiring generally that non-essential work, movement and gatherings stop between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.in counties in the purple tier,” according to a statement issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. The new rules go into effect Saturday and were scheduled to remain in effect through Dec. 21.
“The order did not apply to those experiencing homelessness,” according to a letter from Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan.
“Nothing in this order prevents any number of persons from the same household from leaving their residence, lodging, or temporary accommodation, as long as they do not engage in any interaction with — or otherwise gather with — any number of persons from any other household, except as specifically permitted herein,” she wrote.
Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Paul Little said it didn’t seem to make sense for health officials to keep targeting restaurants and other businesses in response to the pandemic.
“What all of the health people are saying is that they can’t track this latest spike to anything other than Halloween, Biden winning the elections, the Dodgers, that kind of stuff,” he said. “They say specifically that it’s not restaurants, it’s not hair salons, it’s not gyms, it’s not any of those things.”
“To Pasadena’s credit, they’re being less restrictive than the county in what they’re doing, but they have to follow the state guidelines,” Little said. “But my understanding is they’re not imposing any kind of capacity restrictions on outdoor dining, for example.”
Some businesses are quickly reaching their breaking points, he said. “For certain businesses, we’re past it.”
“We’re seeing not just places that opened up a year ago closing, we’re seeing a lot of places close that have been around for a while,” according to Little. “There are just more empty storefronts here, there and everywhere.”
“Another round of PPP is needed by so many businesses because they’re going to hit a point where they can’t make payroll and can’t stay open without some form of help and assistance,” he said.
Gregg Smith, co-owner of the Smith Brothers Restaurant Corporation, which operates three eateries in Pasadena, said the new restrictions will pose a challenge, but he also takes the threat of COVID-19 very seriously.
“We certainly sympathize and agree with the concerns over the COVID surge and we agree with the severity and the urgency to get this under control. We are making arrangements to stop taking orders after 10 o’clock at night,” he said.
Although Smith, too, said he didn’t believe the surge was driven by restaurants or other businesses.
And the timing of the surge and associated restrictions is especially unfortunate, he added. With so many businesses dependent on holiday shopping to get through the year, “If this goes into December, this is going to majorly impact every restaurant and every retailer you see. But we know we are going to certainly do our part in the best interest of everyone.”
Another full shutdown of businesses, as was seen in the early days of the pandemic, however, “would be a totally absurd disaster after what they’ve already done to businesses in general. Businesses are going to start closing left and right.”
For now, “We will hang in there,” Smith said. “We recognize that everyone has to be pulling on the same rope and we will certainly do our part to help curb this virus quickly as we possibly can. And, the 10 o’clock [restriction], we can make that work.”
Rocco’s Tavern owner Leo Armari said he is optimistic his businesses will survive, thanks to strong community support. But the restrictions “have made it much more difficult though.”
He said that his nighttime business on the heated restaurant patios has recently been strong, and the new 10 p.m. business curfew will definitely make an impact.
“In actuality, because there are so many other businesses shuttered, I’m sad to say, especially ones that would stay open late…we did a decent amount of business — maybe 20% of our business — was from 10 to 2. We’ll lose quite a bit of business,” Amari said. “We had steady business, especially when you look towards the end of the week, Thursday through Sunday, where people would eat out later.”
Amari said he understood the need to combat the spread of COVID-19, but didn’t believe business owners should be left in the cold.
“I agree with anything that’ll slow down the virus, but I feel like there should be some compensation given from the governments that just target restaurants — especially restaurants — for these closures,” he said. That’s my argument all along: This isn’t right to do to people who worked their whole lives for something.”
With respect to small businesses spreading the virus, “I don’t see it, personally,” Amari said. ”But I have a very small sampling compared to what [health officials] have.”
Amari estimated that without assistance, his businesses likely wouldn’t make into the second half of 2021.
“Every business that closes, every restaurant that closes is heartbreaking to me, because I know what they’re going through,” he said.
Whether from the federal or state government, relief for businesses is needed, and soon, Amari said. “If it comes later, it’s going to be too late.”