Pasadena restaurants reopen to a few diners, but some hope for owners – Pasadena Star News
Residents of the San Gabriel Valley returned to restaurant terraces along Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena on Tuesday afternoon, January 26, the first full day of alfresco dining in the city since early December. .
Although there weren’t many diners on the day of the reopening, it still marked a beacon of hope for restaurateurs who are only reaching a foot of profitability after more than 10 months of sluggish sales and a ever-changing regulatory landscape has threatened to bankrupt them.
Some clients were masked as they chatted with their lunch partners, others kept their masks on, eating in the hot sun a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted a statewide stay-at-home order that prevented the city from allowing restaurants to operate outside.
This is not the first time that Pasadena restaurants have found themselves in this situation. This time around, however, some Pasadena restaurateurs are hoping they can just stay outside and keep their doors open.
“We hope this will bring back business,” said Abel Ramirez, owner of El Portal, a beloved local Mexican restaurant. “Our customers love to eat in the backyard. It’s California, you have to eat out.
Outside of El Portal, Ramirez and his team have set up a large courtyard with benches, tables, and shade for alfresco dining. Around noon, only two groups of customers were having lunch outside.
Ramirez says business has fluctuated up and down, but especially since last March.
Indeed, business is better when the city allows al fresco dining, but the situation is not even close to normal. In the three restaurants he owns in the old town, he had to lay off 60 employees in total. Still, he says he has enough repeat customers at El Portal to help make ends meet.
“Those who can’t stand isolation will go crazy,” said Rachel Chang, 54, one of Ramirez’s regulars who was having lunch to go. “The exterior is better than the interior. “
Ramirez certainly thinks COVID-19 is a dangerous virus – he and his wife were recently vaccinated – but for small businesses, he thinks government policies and mandates have been inconsistent and unnecessary. For now, it will continue to follow these policies and stay open for outdoor dining, and hope for the best.
Like many business owners, Ramirez is still frustrated with the way businesses have been handled, and he is not alone.
Jack Huang, owner of Sorriso-Bar Celona and ix Tapa Cantina in Pasadena, says the continual closings and reopens seem arbitrary to him.
“I have always agreed with the mandate of the authorities,” Huang said. “But with Newsom saying, ‘you can open tomorrow’, have all of the intensive care beds suddenly improved?”
He added that policies seemed hit and miss and government officials at the county and state levels had not done enough to support local businesses.
“We took advantage of government assistance,” he said, referring to federal loans months ago. “It helped retain employees. But overall, for the company itself, it was barely enough. There was a long stretch of sink or swim.
When restaurants were only open for take out in March, he said Sorriso-Bar Celona only generated 5% of the previous year’s revenue.
Huang was forced to close his other restaurant, ix Tapa Cantina, mainly a bar and nightclub, because he said it made no sense to stay open. But now he said he plans to reopen it to sell Sorriso-Bar Celona’s food after an electrical fire damaged the building.
He hopes the alfresco dining helps his business and the others around him, but he can’t throw big events on days like the Super Bowl or Valentine’s Day because of the pandemic, so he tries to skate with it. as much help as he can get.
“It was a crazy 2020 year and it didn’t get much better in 2021,” he said.
Some restaurants will not benefit much from al fresco dining.
Hummus Labs sell Lebanese dishes like kebabs, falafels, and shawarma nachos, all foods that owner Joseph Badaro says keeps well on the go. So he said he did not expect a dramatic improvement in business.
He said his business is doing well with take out. Yet with most people working from home these days, they miss the large lunch crowd from local offices and businesses. And without government help, reopening for alfresco dining won’t do much for Hummus Labs.
“It’s too little, too late,” he said. “How are we supposed to get out of these holes?” “
Workforce and profitability
Jerry Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast research institute, said the open-air restaurant openings last time around had led to an increase in hiring, “So we expected that this time around.”
“The wild card is how safe people will feel going to restaurants to eat al fresco,” he said.
The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Nickelsburg said.
A global economic recovery, he said, will not fully begin until the pandemic is mitigated “either by vaccines or by some other means”.
“The first step is recovery (from the virus), the end of the pandemic,” Nickelsburg said.
From there, he said, it will be a process where people decide “how safe it is” to resume their regular activities which include close contact with other people.
“Once we’re on our backs we’ll start this process and the recovery could be relatively quick.”
The other question looming, what exactly new protocols will Los Angeles County officials require from restaurateurs in order to open outdoor decks or platforms?
The answers to that question are expected to arrive when the county issues its health ordinance on Friday, January 29.
While restaurants in Pasadena are allowed to open now, Los Angeles County as a whole doesn’t expect its restaurants to reopen until the end of the week.
Long Beach, which runs its own public health department alongside Pasadena, has also allowed its restaurants to open.
The city, which has generally aligned with Los Angeles County throughout the pandemic, was due to issue its updated health ordinance on Tuesday evening.
But Long Beach health officials, in a briefing Tuesday afternoon, said the new health order included a requirement for restaurants to space tables at least 8 feet apart from each other to allow the recommended 6 feet of social distancing when people remove their chairs.
The settlement could offer a clue as to what Los Angeles County officials are considering for their Friday order.
City’s Coronavirus Outlook
Pasadena’s restaurants were open for alfresco dining for much of the fall, but their run was halted when Newsom and state officials released the stay-at-home in early December.
Just about a week before Newsom’s order, Los Angeles County shut down alfresco dining for its restaurants, but Pasadena – in its first major break with the county over a coronavirus-related restriction – chose to keep its restaurants open.
At the time, the city was reporting around 300 new cases every week. By the time Newsom’s order arrived a week later, the city’s new county weekly was over 600 cases.
It increased almost every week thereafter, peaking at more than 1,200 cases in early January.
The weekly growth in the number of cases slowly declined over the next two weeks. The city still reported 617 new cases of coronavirus last week, up from 905 a week earlier.
This week, it looks set to decline further. Even so, the latest numbers are still far higher than Pasadena’s drop figures, which have rarely exceeded triple digits in the weekly tally of new cases.
“We are all happy to see case rates and hospitalizations going down,” Pasadena health officer Dr Ying-Ying Goh said on Monday in a statement. “But, even though the state has lifted the regional stay-at-home order, we cannot afford to let our guard down. We all need to continue to follow safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
“These include wearing a mask every time we leave the house, avoiding crowds, staying at least six feet from people we don’t live with, and washing our hands often. “
This story has been updated to include comments from Jerry Nickelsburg and more information on the reopening of Long Beach.