Restaurant owners along Coast Highway in Encinitas were bracing themselves for the worst Monday. As expected, the revised Public Health Order means they’ll have to cut off indoor dining for at least three weeks.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be hard, but hopefully it’s only for three weeks,” said Eric Soto.
Soto and his family have owned Encinitas Café near D Street for 31 years. The restaurant currently has 21 employees.
“The anxiety level is up right now, we’re trying to wrap our head around having to close indoor dining again,” said Soto, before the revisions were made official.
For now, the indoor dining closure order is only effect for three weeks. But business owners are concerned huge Fourth of July crowds in the beach area may result in another surge in COVID cases, which could in turn extend the the current closures beyond three weeks.
“It’s a tough spill to swallow, and we hope that it’s no more than three weeks because it will be unsustainable if we have to go about business like this,” said Soto.
Over the holiday weekend, the city of Encinitas tried to help businesses by setting up barriers on Coast Highway between D and E streets. The barriers closed off a lane in each direction, allowing restaurants to set up street-side tables for outdoor dining. But by most accounts, it did not go as well as planned.
With Coast Highway reduced to two lanes, traffic was backed up and cars were just a few feet from the outdoor tables making it an uninviting dining experience, according to Soto.
“I don’t think it was successful so far. Possibly if they shut us down for indoor dining, a couple of extra tables would be helpful, but at what cost, if people are afraid to come down and they can’t make turns to make it to our restaurant,” said Soto.
Soto said the street-side set up would add five to seven outdoor tables for his restaurant, far fewer than the indoor tables he’s losing.
Meanwhile, local residents did not like the barriers either.
“This, I think, has caused the merchants to be very frustrated. And it’s caused residents like me, just parking here, I’m not sure, I had to really squint to see the signs. I’m not sure if it’s OK to park in front of barrier, so I don’t really like it,” said Rebecca Rudderman.
The Encinitas business group known as Main Street 101 is reviewing the project and working with the city to improve the project.