Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday rolled back reopenings on indoor operations of restaurants, wineries movie theatres, museums, card rooms and family entertainment centers in L.A. County. The reinstituted closures will last for at least three weeks.
The order comes ahead of the July 4 weekend as Coronavirus numbers and hospitalizations surge in California, leading to fears that the health care system could be overrun and fatalities could increase.
The order could further devastate local restaurants that have struggled to stay above water during the Safer At Home order. But Newsom made it clear he is not ordering full closures.
“This does not mean restaurants shut down. It means we are taking activities and moving them outdoors,” Newsom said.
Californians are reminded to stay home and not gather with people they do not live with, according to Newsom.
The order applies to 19 counties in California on the state’s watch list, including L.A. County.
The city of Pasadena did not plan to draw up its own health order, but to honor and enforce the governor’s new regulations starting at midnight, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
The city recognized the difficulty the measures might create for local businesses, she said. “This is a setback.”
She urged any restaurateurs with questions to contact the Pasadena Health Department.
“We’re here for our businesses and our community and we want to help any way we can,” she said.
Robin Salzer, retired restaurant owner and former city commissioner, tallied up what local restaurateurs are facing.
“Pasadena restaurants and bars were hit with a perfect storm of frustration today with the Governor’s announcement of the closure of indoor dining, drinking and congregating just as they were rebooting their businesses from a three-month shutdown. Add that this is happening before a busy 4th of July weekend and with the minimum wage rising to $15.00 per hour only in Pasadena, Los Angeles and Santa Monica what more can the state do to drive entrepreneurs out of business or out of the state?” Salzer said.
Pie ‘n Burger owner Michael Osborne said he can’t help but feel authorities have singled out restaurants unfairly.
“I’ve tried to go out a fair amount, but the places that I’ve been, what I’ve observed is that everyone is… practicing social distancing. People are wearing their masks. So, you know, that’s all we can do,” he said. “Restaurants are not the cause of the spikes. It’s just not the case.”
The timing of the reinstated restrictions is particularly unfortunate, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Paul Little said.
“The really difficult part, quite honestly, is that I think they were all ready and stocked and anticipating serving customers this weekend, which would probably have been a pretty big weekend,” he said. “And now we’re being told at the 11th hour that they can’t be open on Independence Day weekend.”
“It’s a challenge. Businesses, people are trying their hardest to stay in business and keep going,” Little said. “I don’t fault the governor for it. He did what he thought was the best thing, given the circumstances. But for somebody who has been open for what, 10 days now, and was looking forward to maybe an uptick in business over the holiday weekend, now they’re being told they can’t be open for indoor dining.”
“Some folks have adequate outdoor facilities to make it work. But a lot of them don’t.”
André Vener, partner and co-owner of the Pasadena-based Dog Haus chain, said the restriction could have major effects on already-struggling business.
“It’s going to be tough for any restaurant who doesn’t have outdoor seating or isn’t set up on any third-party delivery [apps]. I think this is just us going backwards to where we were a month or two ago,” he said. “People who don’t have that set up for the delivery and the people who don’t have outdoor dining, I just don’t know what they’re going to do. I mean, basically, they have to throw away all their food and have to let go of a lot of their employees again.”
For businesses and employees alike, the process of closing, then opening, then reclosing, along with the possibility of future mandated closures, creates an uncertainty and cost that’s difficult to manage, according to Vener.
“I keep seeing restaurants going under. I don’t know how they are going to survive. I keep believing that there’s going to be some kind of government grants or something that will make people whole again, because I don’t see how they could keep opening and closing, opening closing,” he said.
Every business is different, Vener said. “We will be able to survive, but unfortunately, here we are going in full circle, as far as we won’t need all the staff members that we’ve hired back.”
But Vener said he could understand the government’s motivation, given the situation with COVID-19 and the fact that he’d seen many people not practicing social distancing practices in his daily travels.
“People just had to break the rules. And so that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s a bummer that people just can’t listen to whatever the guidelines are. Because we’re just going to keep going in a circle in a circle in a circle.”
Local restaurants need the community’s support more than ever, Vener said.
“I hope that everybody continues to pick up with restaurants to keep them alive,” he said. “I think we need to only eat at restaurants for the next three weeks and try to support them, if any way possible.”