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COVID & Unemployment

California restaurants can reopen, but owners are wary

Jasmine Garsd Jan 26, 2021
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The California Restaurant Association says 30% of the state's restaurants are likely to go out of business during the pandemic. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

California restaurants can reopen, but owners are wary

Jasmine Garsd Jan 26, 2021
Heard on:
The California Restaurant Association says 30% of the state's restaurants are likely to go out of business during the pandemic. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

California is reopening. Kind of. 

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the statewide stay-at-home order, which means restaurants will soon be able to reopen, but in most of California, that will only be for outdoor seating. 

It will vary from county to county, and Southern California remains hard hit by COVID-19 infections. 

For restaurant owners, many of whom have had to close their businesses since November, the shift is welcome. But some are distrustful.

Ann Hsing owns Pasjoli, a French eatery in Santa Monica whose butter-poached lobster has earned rave reviews. She said she’s waiting to hear the specifics of the new guidelines. “I think that will be very telling into whether or not it will actually work for some of us to be open.”

The California Restaurant Association says 30% of restaurants in the state are expected to go out of business in this pandemic. Greg Morena is with the association. He spent Monday night and Tuesday rushing to prepare his restaurant — the Albright in Santa Monica (which claims world-famous clam chowder) — to reopen. 

Among other things, he called his staff to find out: “First and foremost, who’s available? Some people have found other jobs. Some people have moved out of state.”

Morena said he hopes to reopen by early February. Not all restaurant owners are that excited. With Southern California still in the grip of COVID-19, many wonder how long the reopening will last. Lien Ta already lost one of her restaurants — Here’s Looking at You — to the pandemic. She still has another, All Day Baby, with its beloved biscuit sandwiches. When it comes to reopening outdoors, she said, “we’re all exhausted, and it’s difficult to make these kinds of decisions when we don’t even learn about them ahead of time.”

So for now, she’s going to put a few tables outside for self-service. She’s not getting her hopes up, just yet.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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