Some local restaurants are now imposing their own COVID restrictions to protect customers, staff and their future.
Businesses have survived the lockdown, al fresco dining only and the switch to take-out models, now either to shorten their hours of operation or even temporarily shut down.
An 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 issues. The date of the provisional reopening is January 12.
Last week, the Goodonya restaurant in Encinitas saw 15% of its staff sick.
“Some of them have tested positive for COVID, a lot of flu,” CEO Shannon Buckley said. “It’s the perfect storm.”
As a result, diners can now only expect table service at breakfast and lunch. Dinner, however, is now only take out.
“With the staff I have, focus on the day and then at night just do it with a small team,” Buckley said.
Two blocks from the 101 in Carin de Ria, Archie Sora has yet to change their opening hours, but it hasn’t been easy.
“In the last year and a half, I’ve only taken seven days off in total,” Sora said.
After the shutdown of the State’s Safer Economy Blueprint, Sora lost five employees and then hired three more. After the second shutdown, he lost two workers but did not hire anyone again.
“In the summer our sales go up 60 to 70%, and with our staff that I have, it’s probably going to be tough for everyone,” Sora said. “It will be a stretch.”
There is little doubt that the restaurant and bar industry has been hit the hardest during the pandemic. The pool of chefs, kitchen helpers and waiters just seemed to evaporate.
“A lot of people have said, ‘I’m 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 after their first reopening, only nine employees returned to work.
“If they were available and had the right attitude, we were happy to hire them,” Santana said.
They are not complete but have enough to get by. If all else fails, Santana said, their take-out business is pandemic-proof.
“We’re very lucky to have some kind of infrastructure with our staff,” Santana said. “We have a whole system ready to go when needed.”
Restaurant owners have learned a lot about the economics of COVID-19.
With a new wave of cases and the peak not yet in sight, most could agree the battle is not yet won.
“That’s what the past two years have taught me – every day you have to come to terms as you go, change gears and stay positive,” Buckley said.