Pasadena restaurant owners say they’re disappointed in a judge’s ruling Tuesday that rejected a bid from the California Restaurant Association to block Los Angeles County’s ban on in-person dining, which took effect Wednesday night.
But they are grateful that officials in Pasadena have not followed suit, at least for the time being.
While a statewide curfew for businesses, including restaurants offering outdoor dining, remains in effect in Pasadena between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. nightly, the county health order does not affect Pasadena, which has its own health department.
El Cholo owner Blair Salisbury was among restaurateurs that said the county regulation appeared to be arbitrary.
“I was very disappointed,” he said. “During [Monday’s] press conference, a reporter asked [L.A. County Director of Public Health] Barbara Ferrer what’s the data to make this decision. And she said, ‘Well, I’ll get back with the numbers.’ I think we need to know what those numbers are. I think we need to compare them to other industries that get to stay open.
“I know she talks about science and data, but give us the numbers. And I can’t believe she, the director [of Public Health] for L.A. County, didn’t know what the numbers were,” Salisbury said. “This is going to be so tough for L.A. County restaurants.”
Salisbury said he was glad that in the Pasadena City Council Chambers Monday, “They asked the same questions,” he said. “They said until we know the numbers, we’re not going to do this to our restaurants.”
If data does show outdoor dining is contributing to the spread of COVID-19, Salisbury said he would understand being told to close. “But I just think before making this decision, we have a right to know what those numbers are.”
Since reopening from the initial shutdown on July 9, Salisbury said not a single customer or employee has contracted the virus from his restaurant. “So we’ve been very fortunate, but we’re doing everything exactly what the county has asked us to do.”
The holiday season will be challenging enough for Pasadena restaurants without any further restrictions, Salisbury said. The lack of a Rose Parade and the accompanying influx of travelers will likely make for lackluster business.
Pie ‘n Burger owner Michael Osborne also said he wanted to see some solid data before government officials take measures that could severely harm businesses.
“There wasn’t really a lot of science behind why people could not dine outdoors or whatever, versus how some other businesses, people are allowed to go inside to go shopping and go and go do other things,” he said.
“So many restaurants were hoping, even in a limited capacity, to pick up a little bit of business through the holidays,” Osborne said. “And I think they were really, really counting on it, as were their workers. And to lose that, at this time of the year… I can’t really even put it into words. It’s that bad.”
“There are so many that are just hanging by a thread right now as it is,” according to Osborne. “It’s just devastating for our industry, and for a whole group of workers that really does nothing wrong.”
He commended Pasadena officials for pausing to gather more information before taking action.
“We’re fortunate here in Pasadena, and I’m really thankful to our City Council for listening to us and looking at the situation from a whole perspective, rather than just bits and pieces,” Osborne said.
“The restaurant community here in Pasadena has been working very hard to convey the hardships that not only we as owners but also our staff and our workers have gone through over these seven or eight months of shutdowns and partial openings,” he said. “And to close it down three weeks before Christmas, to do takeout only, would not only ravage our businesses but laying people off at this point in time is just a really difficult prospect to be looking at.”
Former Pasadena restaurant owner and longtime state restaurant association member Robin Salzer said Pasadena “broke the mold” on Monday.
“Restaurants in Pasadena are among the most professionally operated anywhere in California,” Salzer said.
While many local eateries have been operating for decades, “Their financial sustainability is at severe risk of failure if they’re forced to revert back to takeout and delivery,” Salzer said. “And I think that the Pasadena City Council [on Monday] heard that loud and clear. Our restaurants are doing whatever it takes to be the cleanest and safest dining experiences anywhere in the state.”
Salzer had a grim prediction if local restaurants are again forced to cease in-person service.
“It’s absolutely impossible. It’s disastrous. It’s a recipe for failure,” he said. “It’ll be the most devastating tsunami of failure that you can even fathom.”