Lines at hostess stands, parking lots at capacity and people on park benches waiting for a table to open up at restaurants they’ve waited months to dine at – all long-awaited sights for business owners across San Diego as residents enjoy their first weekend in the orange tier.
Brandi Torres works at La Mesa Antique Mall and mostly relies on foot traffic from neighboring businesses for sales.
“This is more of a touch and see business-- you come and see and touch with your hands…it makes a huge difference with the restaurant and salons reopening,” she said. “People come in, they’re waiting for their appointments and because of the limited capacity, they can’t all wait inside so they’ll come inside here and stroll around…we’ve seen a lot more foot traffic now.”
San Diego’s move into the orange tier this week makes a big impact on businesses like these -- Torres told NBC 7 she has already welcomed both new and old customers since the lesser restrictions went into effect Wednesday.
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The trickle-down effect of an up-and-coming local economy is shaking up other small businesses across the city.
Denice Walker is an aesthetician at Spa Piel and has seen the increase in business firsthand.
“People are going to coffee shops and going to eat and they’re stopping by…with restaurants opening we’re definitely seeing a lot more activity,” she said.
Spa Piel’s owner had to lay off all staff and close for roughly five months at the height of the pandemic.
“Now, we’re bringing everyone back one by one,” Walker said.
Walker told NBC 7 the spa, which was operating by appointment only during the pandemic, is now open seven days a week with their pre-pandemic operating hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. She said they’ve even had to extend hours to fit clients in.
It's big news for the whole economy because less-restrictive rules for some mean more business for all.
“I hope they come in -- look at a few books…mostly I just want to see life come back to the boulevard. It had been an absolute desert here for almost a year,” said Craig Maxwell, the owner of Maxwell’s House of Books.
The change is welcomed news for San Diego residents like Bev Goward who have been trying to support small businesses over the past year.
“Throughout Covid, I’ve been wanting to support small businesses with takeout and that kind of thing, but then going home and eating by myself,” Goward said. “It was wonderful to be able to come to places like today to be able to get a cup of coffee and support the store owner.”
A 10 p.m. curfew is no longer mandated under the orange tier and San Diego restaurants can operate indoors at 50% capacity, or 200 people, whichever is fewer -- while table distancing and mask-wearing must continue. Bars not serving food can now serve customers outdoors after being shut down for more than a year.
Brenda Leek, the owner of Curbside, a La Mesa restaurant and bar, told NBC 7 she is proud of the role she and other restaurant owners play in the city’s comeback.
“Restaurants help support other retail businesses…I think that with the outside dining it has definitely taken off and that'll help us recover after this last year,” she said.
Leek told NBC 7 she hopes the city will allow restaurants and bars to continue using outdoor space to serve more customers, especially as we enter the summer months.
“All the restaurants that have outside patio and outside dining I support all of them…it’s a community effort here…there’s room for everybody and it’s exciting for people to come down here and have some options,” she said.