As the possibility of a move to a more restrictive tier looms over the region, some small businesses in San Diego have announced a movement to defy state health orders if more restrictions are in place – and they are encouraging others to do the same.
A banner on Rudford’s Restaurant in North Park isn’t simply for decoration, but a call to action. As many small businesses look at what could be yet another step backward due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the North Park eatery is one of many that are trying to survive the difficult times.
Rudford's has been on El Cajon Boulevard for 71 years and its general manager, Nick Kacha, said the last six months have been the toughest on the business and customers.
“I feel like we're doing everything correct and we are being put on the chopping block,” Kacha told NBC 7. “I just don't think it is fair."
In an effort to gain more customers, Kacha built a 20-table back patio and placed plexiglass dividers between booths inside. He said he bought masks, gloves, and disinfecting chemicals. However, the sign he bought to hang above the front door may be the best protection against shuttering his eatery.
Just above the restaurant’s entry rests a large sign that reads, “Stand Up Small Business! #Defy.”
“The sign is just telling small businesses to stand up,” Kacha said.
The sign is part of a bigger movement happening among small businesses in San Diego. Kacha said at least a dozen other local businesses are refusing to shut their doors if state health code restrictions are rolled back.
“We don't want to make it political at all, we just want them to really sit down and take a look at what is going on and let businesses be open,” he said.
Tootie Thomas, the executive director of the Boulevard Business Improvement Association, understands what Kacha is going through since Thomas is also the owner of Lips Restaurant, which is just a block away from Rudford’s.
“I trust Nick and the years they have had on the boulevard to do what's right for the business,” Thomas said.
Although the business association works within state guidelines, Thomas sympathizes with the small businesses struggling with the see-sawing restrictions.
“It hurts our employees, it hurts our economy, it hurts our business community and it hurts our neighborhoods,” Thomas said.
Kacha recognizes the seriousness of spreading coronavirus. His employees are masked and gloved, their temperatures are checked before work and their stations are disinfected after every table turn.
“For us, I think we are choosing to defy because that's what we have to do to survive,” he said.
Rudford's Restaurant is typically a 24-hour operation. So when the state ordered that restaurants could operate with take-out only, the eatery put locks on the doors for the first time.
It was an emotional defeat for the restaurant’s owners, but they’ve fought to keep their doors open for decades and said they are not stopping now.