Some local restaurants are now imposing their own COVID restrictions to protect customers, staffers and their futures.
The businesses survived lockdown, outdoor-only dining and moves to take-out models, only to now either shorten their business hours or even temporarily close down.
One iconic victim: The popular Marine Room Restaurant in La Jolla is temporarily closed. According to its website, the business is temporarily closed due to the omicron variant and staffing challenges. The tentative reopening date is Jan. 12.
Last week, Goodonya restaurant in Encinitas had 15% of its staff call in sick.
“Some of them tested positive for COVID, a lot of flu,” general manager Shannon Buckley said. “It’s the perfect storm."
As a result, diners can now only expect table service at breakfast and lunch. Dinner, though, is now takeout-only.
“With the staff that I have, focus on doing the day and then at night just do it with a skeleton crew,“ Buckley said.
Two blocks down the 101 at Carin de Ria, Archie Sora hasn’t changed his operating hours yet, but it hasn’t been easy.
“For the past year and a half, I’ve only taken seven total days off,“ Sora said.
After the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy shut him down, Sora lost five employees, then hired three more. After the second shutdown, he lost two workers but hasn’t hired anyone new.
“Summer, our sales go up 60 to 70%, and with our staff that I have, it is probably going to be tough for everybody,” Sora said. “It’s going to be a stretch.“
There is little argument the restaurant and bar industry took the biggest hit during the pandemic. The pool of chefs, kitchen help and servers seemed to just evaporate.
“A lot of people said, ‘I am done,’ ” Buckley said. “ ‘I don’t want to be in the service industry anymore. I don’t want to be around people.’ “
Encinitas Fish Shop night manager Justin Santana said that after they reopened for the first time, just nine employees returned to work.
“If they were available and had the right attitude, we were happy to hire them,” Santana said.
They’re not at full staff but have enough to get by. If all else fails, Santana said, their takeout business is pandemic proof.
“We are very fortunate that we do have kind of an infrastructure with our staff,” Santana said. “We have a whole system ready to get to go when it is needed."
Restaurant owners have learned a lot about the COVID-19 economy.
With another surge of cases and the peak not yet in sight, most might agree the battle isn’t won yet.
“That’s what the past two years have taught me: Every day you have to make it up as you go along and switch gears and stay positive,” Buckley said.