Although state health ordinances forced the shutdown of all outdoor dining services across California early last month, Pasadena’s policy allows restaurateurs to keep their outdoor seating – without food service. wait staff – for public use, leaving what some worry is a loophole in public safety measures.
Although the practice of keeping outdoor furniture outside is permitted by Pasadena, only a handful of local restaurants do, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.
In early December, Pasadena, which has its own municipal health department and therefore operates under its own separate county health authorities, had allowed alfresco dining to continue even as Los Angeles County public health officials ordered to cease in all the surrounding towns.
But a statewide stay-at-home order that took effect on December 6, as COVID-19 cases reached unprecedented levels, put an end to real alfresco dining in Pasadena.
âAt this point, we allow restaurateurs to keep their furniture outside, although few have done so, and under no circumstances is ‘service’ allowed,â the city spokeswoman said, Lisa Derderian. “If the public sees any violations, we ask them to call the Citizen Service Center at (626) 744-7311.”
Most restaurants quickly withdrew their outdoor arrangements when the state order went into effect, city officials said in an email last week.
“The City did not mandate this withdrawal but encourages it, as it preserves these devices for future use when catering for outdoor meals and helps to avoid liability and incidental problems,” according to the e- mail.
“In this regard, if an authorized use chooses to maintain tables, chairs and other devices for public use during the period when outdoor dining is prohibited, people using these areas should wear a mask, maintain a distance physical and not to congregate with anyone outside of their immediate home, âthe email continues. âLittering, sleeping at night, smoking and consuming alcohol are prohibited and areas must be closed every evening from 10 pm. [to] 5:00 a.m. The restaurant is responsible for applying these requirements to its tables, whether they are located on public or private property.
At El Cholo restaurant in The Paseo shopping center on Colorado Boulevard, owner Blair Salisbury said he noticed people using his large seats even when the business is closed when reviewing security footage.
âI see people sitting on our patio,â he said. âWe are next to a PF Chang’s and they don’t have a terrace. So people came to sit on our terrace and enjoy their Chinese cuisine, âhe said.
âI have had people who asked if they could do it. I have no problem with that, if they want to go out, go out and go and sit on the terrace, âhe said.
Nonetheless, he said, “I think it’s best to let them take it home, because if they’re sitting on your patio and your staff is there, they are exposing your staff,” he said. .
At least one restaurant promoted its unserviced patio via social media in mid-December, urging customers to “order your TAKE-OUT tonight and come sit and eat it safelyâ¦”
Salisbury said he thought such a tactic was “too strong”.
âWe just have to get over this because so many restaurants are going to close,â he said.
Salisbury said that in Orange County, where family members operate restaurants, unserviced patio dining is much more common. âAnd the patios over there are packed,â he said.
The city of Manhattan Beach had a similar policy to Pasadena until Sunday, when city officials announced they were banning unserviced outdoor seating in restaurants due to a spike in local COVID infections. -19, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Like many other restaurateurs, however, Salisbury said he was not convinced that banning alfresco dining was the best way to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
âWhen people came to my restaurant for al fresco dining, the way it worked was that they wore masks. When they entered, they sat down at the table. While they were eating they took off the mask, but while they weren’t eating they left the mask on, âhe said. The waiters wore both masks and face shields.
âBut now it looks like with the increasesâ¦ we’ll get GrubHub and DoorDash orders for two entrances, but we’re also getting for around 10 and 12 entrances, so people get together. When you have 12 entrances, they’re not sitting outside, they’re sitting inside, âaccording to Salisbury. âAnd so it is possible that the spread of viruses is even worse, because they are indoors and eat food, rather than outdoors. I do not know. It seems logical to me. “
Restaurants have been pushed beyond their limits by the restrictions, as evidenced by the closure of many neighboring businesses around El Cholo, Salisbury said.
Even with COVID-19 vaccinations slowly making their way into society, Salisbury said he does not consider any sort of full reopening until at least March.
âA lot of restaurants, including us, have lived with these PPP loans that the government has given us,â he said. âWithout the PPP loan, we would not be open today.
Salisbury said the city had apparently ‘bent over backwards’ to support local restaurants.
Nevertheless, the toll of the pandemic remains serious, âhe said.
âMy restaurant had 61 employees before last March. When we reopened we only had 31 revenues, âsaid Salisbury. âWe make 45% of our old sales. “
At Italian restaurant Gale on Fair Oaks Avenue, owner Gale Kohl said she understood if other restaurants chose to keep outdoor furniture available to the public, but she had no intention of doing so.
âThere are definitely restaurants that are going to do that,â she said. “And it’s up to them to decide how they want to do it.”
“I am very shy about this because I am very concerned that we are doing the right things and that I protect my staff and myself,” she added. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Kohl also said she was skeptical of the link between the spread of the pandemic and eating al fresco.
âThere is no evidence that it is spreading outside, it is spreading inside,â she said. “So shutting everything off outside is a little silly when you consider that you are forcing people to congregate inside instead of going outside.”
âI know how I am with my clients and my business. And I knew we were very careful. People weren’t sitting against each other. We disinfect everything.
But she said she realized that some companies did not adhere to security protocols.
âThere are places that are not compliant and they are not doing the right thing, which is so sad,â she said.
The pandemic and the protocols that accompany it have pushed Gale’s and other restaurants to their limits.
She also said that PPP loans and unemployment benefits have kept the company and its employees afloat so far, “but certainly for me, my staff, my team, it’s not enough,” said Kohl. âThey won’t be able to survive this. Many of them, we’ll go. They will leave Pasadena, they will leave California. They can’t take much more. It makes me cry. “