Once again, pandemic-era restrictions for restaurants have changed – and we will break down those changes on our show.
Joining our conversation is Jason McLeod, (twice Michelin star) chef and partner of local hospitality powerhouse group, CH Projects, which runs some of San Diego’s most high-profile restaurants and bars (to name a few local favorites: Morning Glory; Born & Raised; Ironside; Soda & Swine; Craft & Commerce; Polite Provisions).
McLeod shares how the stay-at-home order will impact CH Projects and how the eateries will adapt during a month when – in non-pandemic times – would typically be a busy time for restaurants with holiday parties, seasonal offerings, and banquets.
Listen to Episode 11 Here:
California's December 2020 Stay-at-Home Order: What It Means for San Diego County's Food Scene
San Diego County had been in the state’s purple tier since mid-November – the most restrictive tier in California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
In the purple tier, San Diego County restaurants were able to offer outdoor dining, pickup or takeout, and food delivery, but no indoor dining.
On Dec. 3, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned those COVID-induced restrictions were about to get tighter.
Newsom said the state would impose a regional, limited stay-at-home order if a region’s capacity hospital ICUs fell below 15%.
The governor’s order divided the state into five regions: Northern California; the San Francisco Bay Area; Greater Sacramento; the San Joaquin Valley; Southern California.
If restrictions were triggered, every county in a region would have to abide by the same rules. San Diego was, of course, grouped into the SoCal region.
On Dec. 4, the Southern California region got there, with ICU capacity dropping below 15%. The drop continued Dec. 5, when ICU bed capacity in Southern California fell to 12.5%.
This triggered a 3-week stay-at-home order, in effect at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 6 that would last until at least after Christmas.
Under this order, all on-site dining at San Diego restaurants is closed. This means local eateries can only offer takeout, pickup or delivery – that’s it.
The order may be extended if the numbers don’t improve, but we won’t know that until the end of the month.
In addition to restrictions on restaurants, the stay-at-home order also changes things for places like gyms, salons, barbershops, zoos, and retail stores in San Diego County.
Here’s a look at what’s open and what is NOT open locally during this 3-week time period.
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Guest Interview: Chef Jason McLeod of CH Projects
CH Projects partner and chef Jason McLeod talked with us about the statuses of his restaurants, including which locations will remain open for takeout and delivery under these new rollbacks.
McLeod shared details on what stopping business for three weeks means for his crew – the logistics and challenges of making that work for a large-scale operation like CH Projects.
He also shared how his eateries have adapted to the pandemic over these past nine months -- including the closing and reopening roller coaster. According to McLeod, CH Projects has learned a lot as a result of these hard times.
"We've been preparing for this moment (the stay-at-home order) for the past four or five months, so we're in much better shape to relaunch next time," McLeod said.
Meanwhile, Morning Glory, a popular brunch spot in Little Italy, was one of five San Diego restaurants that recently got a commendation from the prestigious Michelin Guide.
McLeod chats with us about that award – and what it means in the middle of a pandemic. Hint: It was a huge morale booster among his staff.
"What it did for the morale of the team this time was really special," McLeod said. "I get goosebumps just talking about it. The timing of it -- it kind of was this perfect storm, a perfect moment to announce it. I think it impacted our team more than it impacted our sales and that, to me, made it really special."
Are his restaurants focused on standing out or just surviving right now? Also, what’s on the table in terms of future projects for CH Projects? Is everything delayed?
Finally, McLeod talks about his experience opening Fortunate Son – a Chinese restaurant on Adams Avenue in uptown San Diego (next door to Polite Provisions) – during the pandemic. The eatery has a heavy focus on takeout which – lucky for them – is a pretty pandemic-proof offering at this point.
"We love the space," he said.
McLeod said the new concept, which replaces Soda & Swine, is meant to tell the story of Chinese-Americans and their mark on the culinary scene.
But getting it up and running during these strange times was certainly a challenge.
"What we do is never easy," McLeod said. "The first six weeks were just brutal; I think I lost 15 pounds. But to see it now start to really tick -- it's pretty special. That's the neatest thing for me, watching the evolution of these restaurants. That day it just clicks."
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Listen/subscribe to the Scene in San Diego podcast to get the latest local lifestyle stories and news from our local food and drink scene. As we continue to adjust to life (back and forth, back and forth) in these times of the coronavirus pandemic, the way we enjoy our city has changed. We’ll keep you up to speed on how those changes impact the things you love to do in our city. Tap here to find Scene in San Diego wherever you listen to podcasts.
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.