Pasadena restaurant owners and diners greeted the reopening of Pasadena restaurants on Monday with a mixture of relief and gratitude, and maybe just a dollop of trepidation for good measure.
While at least one restaurant actually opened its outdoor tables on Monday evening, more opened on Tuesday, while still others may not open for outdoor dining until Friday.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Armen Shirvanian, owner of Mi Piace, who opened his sidewalk tables for dining Monday evening.
“People are elated to be here,” he said, “and we are ecstatic, thank God, that we’re open again. It was a long haul, but we’ve been getting reservations, and our phones have been ringing off the hook. People are very very excited, and we are excited as well.”
Kathleen Maymerian, owner of Kathleen’s Restaurant, while pleased to be serving customers in person again, opened slowly on Tuesday, and pointed out the difficulties in doing business in a constantly changing pandemic landscape.
“When the governor stopped patio dining on December 7th,” she said Tuesday, “it was a drastic blow for a few reasons. First of all, December should be the busiest month of the year for restaurants. And we were reduced to take out only. Secondly, we had very mild warm weather for those past seven weeks, and now that we can sit outside, it’s less than ideal to dine.”
Meymerian continued, “It took a while for our customers to get accustomed to al fresco dining in the first place. When we finally got in a groove with a busy, fun vibe, the rug was pulled out from under us back in December. So it’s just been extremely difficult and stressful from the standpoint of myself, the owner, but also for the staff, for me to be telling them, ‘You’re furloughed indefinitely’ or ‘We need you back ASAP’, just the back and forth of it. So I’m hoping that this time we can stay the course.”
Supporting the restaurant staff has naturally been one of the most difficult parts of the on-again-off-again regulations, lamented Gale Kohl, owner of Gale’s Restaurant.
Said Kohl Tuesday, “My poor team has gone through so much. And there we were with, being open, being closed, being open. They have family. So that piece of it has been just devastating for everybody. Trying to get everybody back is really difficult.”
A number of workers also came into contact with the COVID virus, she noted.
“They got it after work ended for them,” Kohl continued. “So that means they cannot work for another, at least, two weeks,” adding, “It’s been a while, I guess, since they’ve gotten sick, but really it’s been a real challenge trying to navigate this.”
But Kohl was also quick to say, “People are excited about coming back. We’ve got all of our safety measures in place and, and I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to make it through this week, and then hopefully I’ll get more staff back going into next week.
“I’m just grateful that we’ve all come through it,” she continued. “My staff for the most part is healthy, or they’re on the mend. And I’m so grateful for that. I’m so grateful for how Pasadena has stepped up and really tried to help all of our businesses, our small businesses here.”
Meanwhile, customers at Gale’s and other restaurants were thrilled to be once again dining outside at their favorite eateries.
“I just had the best cheeseburger ever!” laughed Gale’s customer Ann Hassett. “We haven’t dined at a restaurant since March 7.”