The plate was warm. The silverware was warm. The concrete was warm.
Everything was warm Monday, especially in make-shift dining rooms set up in parking lots outside of their respective restaurants as the mercury crept past 90°.
“It’s too hot,” exclaimed Sandee Matthews. “You can’t enjoy the meal. It’s too hot.”
Matthews sat with her family underneath a canopy that provided shade for about a dozen tables at Jimmy’s Restaurant and Bar along Mission Gorge Road in Santee. The pandemic forced hundreds of restaurants outside for social distancing purposes. However, the heat wave in San Diego County made employees and customers long for the air conditioning inside.
“If it wasn’t humid, I think it would be better,” said Sandee’s husband, Kent.
The humidity added a humbling layer of dampness to everyone, including the servers who continually marched orders from the kitchen out to the parking lot.
“Up and in and out, in and out. Now, I have to double tip them,” laughed Sandee.
“I feel really bad for my employees,” said Jimmy’s owner Maria Bellarsina. “I feel really bad for my customers.”
It has been incredibly tough for Bellarsina, too. Her husband died in June. She’s dealt with his loss, the pandemic, and now a heat wave that will send temperatures close to triple digits in San Diego’s East County.
“The difficulty from one to ten right now is ten,” she said. “It’s been a struggle, but we’re hanging in there."
"Living out here, you get used to the warmth,” said Kent.
He works with several area businesses at his Lasting Impressions Print Shop. Kent said some of his clients continue to struggle, but businesses like Kimmy’s keep plugging along because they adapt to the challenges.
“They got some big bills to pay because you can’t serve inside, but at least they’re allowed to do this,” he said pointing to the outdoor seating area.