(Natural News) With COVID-19 cases surging across California, health officials announced a new regional stay-at-home order that took effect on Dec. 5. The order includes a ban on outdoor dining, which many restaurant and bar owners relied on to survive throughout the pandemic.
“We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. With the new order, health officials hope to flatten the curve and reduce the stress on the state’s intensive care units. However, restaurant owners are at a tipping point as well.
In fact, restaurant owners in a number of counties, including Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Contra Costa are fighting back.
Jimmy Eliopoulos, owner of Crumbs in Contra Costa, said he didn’t feel that closing down outdoor dining was the right step to take right now. “This is a matter of survival,” he said.
Like most restaurant owners, Eliopoulos was forced to close his doors in March. He only recently reopened by following California’s blueprint for a safer economy.
Because of this, Eliopoulos said the stay-at-home order is asking too much from small businesses. “This is not fair,” he said, citing the fact that big businesses like Target are still open.
Jeff Paul, a frequent customer at Crumbs, said he thinks the place is safe and that he will continue to eat there.
Meanwhile, Amy Sidhom, another restaurant owner in Contra Costa, said that take-out comprises a measly 10 percent of their business. She said she cannot rely on this 10 percent to pay for rent, staff and vendors.
On the other hand, business owners who chose to comply with the decision would have to lay off staff and lose tens of thousands of dollars spent on building outdoor dining areas that comply with COVID-19 protocols.
Other restaurant owners to follow suit
Eliopoulos said he is meeting with other restaurant owners in Contra Costa to talk about a plan going forward, adding that many others, including Sidhom, plan to reopen their outdoor dining as well. “We’re going to open distanced outside just like before,” said Sidhom. That being said, their staff can choose to work or not.
Meanwhile, Dino Ferraro, owner of Capone’s Italian Cucina and Black Trumpet Bistro in Orange County, said he was “experimenting” by offering outdoor and indoor dining with tables spaced 12 feet apart.
Ferraro’s restaurants also provide face masks for customers who forgot to bring them. Of his experimentation, Ferraro said he is not in denial about the virus. But despite the risk, he has to move forward and make a living. Ferraro is already $100,000 in debt from the rent he owes for his two restaurants. He also spent thousands of dollars over the past few months ensuring that both businesses complied with COVID-19 protocols.
Other restaurant owners were more overt with their resistance to the ban on outdoor dining. Angela Marsden, the owner of Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Los Angeles County, posted a video on social media when she saw production tents and tables set up just a few feet from her restaurant’s outdoor dining area.
Worse, she saw the production crew dining under the tents. “Right here is dangerous. But just walk over there and eat,” Marsden said of the situation.
Marsden, who has owned her restaurant for a decade, also said she spent around $80,000 to build an outdoor dining area and to ensure it meets her county’s health requirements. But because of the latest ban, she has run out of money and can no longer afford to offer takeout services. She has since closed her restaurant.
“[They] have shut us down. We cannot survive. My staff cannot survive.”
Marsden said she hopes to reopen her restaurant soon. But the prospect appears dim without proper financial assistance from the state.
On Saturday afternoon, she and other restaurant owners gathered outside the home of L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to protest the ban on outdoor dining. (Related: LA County supervisor dines outside HOURS after voting to ban outdoor dining.)
The Oaks Tavern owner Camila Dizon, who attended the protest, was frustrated at the abruptness of the latest ban. “They yank us bank and forth. They don’t give us any warning that they’re going to shut down.”
Marsden, Dizon and other restaurant owners also said they feel they are being blamed for the surge in COVID-19 cases despite outdoor dining being a safer service than indoor dining.
It is unclear if restaurant owners resisting the ban on outdoor dining will face action or charges from the state or local governments.
Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.