LISTEN: Scene in San Diego Podcast – Mayor Todd Gloria Talks About the Impact of COVID-19 on Restaurants

Monica Garske, lead editor of NBC 7's The Scene, and Candice Woo, founding editor of Eater San Diego, talk about San Diego’s food scene in these times of COVID-19

It’s been one year since the coronavirus pandemic began impacting every part of our lives. On this episode of our Scene in San Diego podcast, we’re joined by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on our restaurants and lifestyle scene.

We also talk about the latest pandemic-era changes for local breweries, wineries and distilleries, and break down how the government’s COVID-19 relief bill will help restaurants. San Diego moved into the red tier this week, so we talk about that, too.

Listen to Episode 18 Here:

Listen/subscribe to the Scene in San Diego Featuring Eater Podcast to get the latest local lifestyle stories and news from our local food and drink scene. As we continue to adjust to life in the coronavirus pandemic, the way we enjoy our city has changed. We’ll keep you up to speed on those changes as it impacts the things to do during your downtime in San Diego. Tap here to find Scene in San Diego Featuring Eater wherever you listen to podcasts.


What's New? San Diego Moves Into Red Tier, Plus Change in Rules for Breweries, Wineries, Distilleries in California

San Diego County officially made its way into the red tier this week under California’s color-coded system for safely reopening the economy.

The shift from the most restrictive purple or “widespread” tier into the red or “substantial” tier comes with looser restrictions for some activities and businesses around the county – including restaurants.

In the red tier, San Diego County eateries can now allow indoor dining, something they haven’t been able to do since last fall. The big rule for indoor dining is that restaurants must operate at a maximum of 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. The must also continue to follow the county’s COVID-19 health guidelines, including social distance and face masks.

San Diego County is expected to be eligible for the red tier Tuesday, which means restaurants could be back inside by Wednesday. NBC 7's Joe Little reports.

The shift into the red tier also impacts places like museums in San Diego County, which can now reopen indoor operations, also at 25% capacity. The same goes for movie theaters and gyms – indoor service is allowed now, at 25% capacity.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said the county’s move into the red tier shows that sacrifices made during the pandemic, up to this point, are working.

“This is another strong step forward in our responsible recovery from COVID-19,” Fletcher said in a prepared statement released to the media Tuesday. “While it has been a long year particularly for our gyms and restaurants, the vaccine has given us hope that we can not only save lives but get our way of life back.”

Read more about what you can do under the red tier in San Diego County here.

Meanwhile, California has also recently changed some pandemic-era rules for breweries, wineries and distilleries.

The California Department of Public Health has updated its reopening guidance to allow for breweries, wineries, and distilleries to operate outdoors without having to serve food.

So San Diegans can now grab a craft beer without also having to buy food on the same tab as their drink. For many months until now, breweries, wineries and distilleries had only been able to offer outdoor service if they operated like restaurants and sold food.

That was the lifeline for many San Diego County’s craft brewers for months and months.

The changes to the rules for breweries, wineries and distilleries come with three big rules:

  • Patrons must make reservations
  • Patrons can only stay for a maximum of 90 minutes
  • The businesses must stop serving by 8 p.m. daily

The change does not apply to bars under either the purple or red tier.


What Does the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Mean for Restaurants?

Among its pandemic relief features for the U.S., government’s new COVID-19 relief bill gives direct help to restaurants across the United States in the form of $28.6 billion in funding.

Those grants will help restaurants whose revenue fell in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. To be eligible for the restaurant grants, companies can’t own more 20 locations and can’t be publicly traded.

The bill sets aside $5 billion for the nation’s smallest restaurants, too – those that make $500,000 or less per year.

Of course, many restaurants in San Diego County are hopeful the bill helps their businesses get out of the pandemic hole. You can read more about that here.

As Congress gets closer and closer to approving a COVID-19 relief bill, Mayor Todd Gloria announced how he would use federal funds to boost San Diego County’s economy.

Guest Interview: San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria

San Diego Mayor Gloria dropped into our podcast this week to talk about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our city’s restaurants and communities.

Gloria talked about Back to Work SD, his blueprint to strengthen San Diego’s economy, and how the city plans to use aid from government’s COVID-19 relief bill to rebuild. Gloria talked about how his plan will help San Diego’s dining scene and small businesses.

With the county’s shift into the red tier, Gloria also talked about the return of indoor dining and what it will do for our city. He said he trusts that San Diegans will behave when it comes to following the COVID-19 guidelines that remain in place.

City of San Diego
Mayor Todd Gloria

We also spoke with Gloria about ways that San Diego restaurants have adapted during the pandemic – including the addition of to-go cocktails and outdoor dining parklets – and whether those changes will stick around in a post-pandemic world.

The answer is yes.

“The public has clearly said that they want these things, they enjoy these things, they’re making use of them and after all that we’ve put up with over the past year, how could we take that joy back from people?”

Gloria said outdoor dining has brought “tremendous vitality” to many of San Diego’s neighborhoods. He said his administration is working to transition dining parklet from emergency, pandemic mode to a more permanent fixture on San Diego’s streets.

“We want to write the rules of the road, to make these things permanent in the future,” he said.

Gloria also talked about the resilience of San Diego’s restaurant and hospitality industries and how that positive outlook will help those industries bounce back down the road.

The mayor also talked about his favorite go-to restaurants right now in San Diego (hint: he’s currently on a Mexican food kick) and where he looks forward to eating a lot of chili this fall.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria joins the conversation on the Scene in San Diego Podcast in March 2021.

For more content from The Scene, visit this website. For more content from Eater San Diego, click here. And to read our collaboration content with Eater and The Scene every week, click here.

The Scene in San Diego Feat. Eater Podcast is hosted by NBC 7’s Monica Garske and Eater San Diego’s Candice Woo, and is produced by NBC 7’s Matthew Lewis.

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