As San Diego County enters a new mandated stay-at-home order, one of the most noticeable restrictions will be dining. Under the new guidelines, if ICU availability drops below 15% in the Southern California region, in-person dining is banned. Only carry-out and delivery will be allowed. The move is meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. For restaurant owners, it means potential closures and layoffs.
“We’re tired of all this. We’re tired of these games, up and down, open close. It’s a roller coaster for everyone,” said Brad Wise, owner and executive chef of Rare Society in University Heights.
Wise just made a large investment, building a parklet dining area outside the restaurant. The new stay-at-home order comes just days after the parklet opened. He is frustrated, but Wise is trying to remain optimistic about the future.
“As long as we get to give our diners an experience of being in here and being able to taste the food again, it was all worth it,” Wise said.
While the newly built structure will remain, many jobs will not. Before the pandemic, Wise says he employed more than 200 people at his restaurants. If restaurants stop in-person dining again, Wise’s staff will be cut to less than 20 people. The emotional aspect of the situation is the most difficult for Wise.
“It’s the holidays, there’s no help from the government. We’re having to give people potentially their last paychecks before Christmas,” Wise said.
According to the California Restaurant Association, 1.4 million Californians worked in restaurants before the pandemic. Since March, between 900 thousand and 1 million of those employees have been laid off or furloughed, according to the association.
“We’re all in this together. That’s what gets me through, knowing I’m not the only one going through this,” Wise said.
In a survey by the California Restaurant Association, 30% said they with either close permanently or downsize because of COVID-19.