In the five weeks since local restaurants received county approval to open for food service, owners have revamped their table layouts, retrained their staff, and revamped their menus to meet guidelines. social distancing required.
But what if these changes destroy the very essence of what makes the restaurant unique?
That was the challenge facing John Resnick, owner of Jeune et Jolie, the modern 18-month-old French bistro in Carlsbad, named in Esquire magazine’s 2019 list of America’s 22 Best New Restaurants.
So, rather than reopening the restaurant at 2659 State St. in a scaled-down form, Resnick decided to reinvent it. On June 22, the restaurant reopened as Young and Pretty: Starry Night, with all of the restaurant’s seating moved outside to a parking lot that underwent a $ 30,000 renovation.
“We didn’t want to be Young and Pretty if we couldn’t to be Young and Pretty, âsaid Resnick, who opened the 90-seat bistro in December 2018 with executive chef and good friend Andrew Bachelier. Her name was inspired by their children, John and Sarah Resnick’s daughter, Elsie June, and Andrew and Larah Bachelier’s daughter, Margot Jolie.
The charming Belle Ãpoque-style restaurant has an intimacy that diners love, with small coffee tables and booths, a round bar where 18 customers can sit by the bartender and a central kitchen with no walls or barriers separating the team of chefs animated by the guests. Resnick said there was no way to keep that atmosphere under the 6-foot distance guidelines, and he didn’t want to try.
Initially, he believed he would keep the 2,000 square foot restaurant closed for the duration of the pandemic. But when the state’s alcoholic beverage control agency eased restrictions on where a restaurant could serve drinks, it decided to take advantage of Jeune et Jolie’s little-used 2,000-square-foot parking lot and relocate. everything except the kitchen outside.
In early June, he repainted the parking lot with a pale aqua paint that matches the decor of the restaurant. Then he trucked in three 20-foot olive trees that were lifted by a crane onto mats of dirt, and huge planters were built around them. Lights were hung from the trees, new outdoor seating was purchased, dozens of potted yellow wood evergreen bushes lined up around the grounds, and the Starry Night was born.
At the time, Resnick saw the reinvention of the restaurant as a necessity for survival. But now it seems premonitory, after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered restaurants and bars in 19 California counties to close for everything but take-out on Wednesday. San Diego County has been spared the order, but that could change, as early as July 6, if viral outbreaks continue to increase.
Not only has the dining room environment been redesigned, the menu has also been redesigned. To avoid queues and overcrowding, reduce food waste, and allow waiters to socialize with guests, the Jeune et Jolie menu has gone from a la carte service to a prix fixe menu of $ 95. $ five course. There’s an optional raw seafood course and vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, but otherwise all diners get the same meal.
Dinner at Starry Night is by reservation only. The menu, which will change slightly each week, is posted on the website (jeune-jolie.com), and diners pay for their meals in advance. Once the reservation is made, diners are emailed instructions on the restaurant’s new social distancing policies to avoid any annoying surprises upon check-in. Asked about the second day of service last week, Resnick said he had so far not encountered any customers angry at face mask rules or the two-hour limit for serving meals.
The Starry Night can accommodate 64 people, including 54 in the parking lot and 10 more on the restaurant’s original terrace. This almost makes up for the loss of 80 seats inside, but the most painful sacrifice is the loss of revenue generated by the bar. Diners can still order drinks at their tables, but the romance of a cocktail hand-drawn in a crystal absinthe fountain is gone.
Public reaction to the new concept has been positive. When Resnick announced Starry Night on Instagram on June 11, the news generated the most likes, over 1,400, in the restaurant’s history. Bookings were also strong.
Among the diners who enjoyed an early dinner at Starry Night on June 23 were North County residents Paul Schlunt and Elaine Brown, who were celebrating the first anniversary of their first date, which was at Jeune and pretty. Schlunt has been a regular visitor since the restaurant opened.
âI love its uniqueness,â he said. âThe food is fascinating, the staff are very accommodating and the bartenders taught me a lot about mixing drinks. I couldn’t wait to come back. I have always enjoyed watching the show. It was all a question of images and sounds.
Resnick also owns the famous, wood-fired-centric Campfire Restaurant, located just one block south of State Street. The nearly 4-year-old restaurant, overseen by executive chef Andrew Santana, also reopened on June 22. The campfire has a large outdoor seating area and garage door style window walls that open to the outside. This allowed Resnick to safely use the indoor dining area and bar, although he took several safety precautions.
One is a new $ 10,000 air duct and ventilation system designed to draw air straight up and out of the dining room to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Many tables were taken down and replaced with potted plants, and tables and bar seats decommissioned to ensure 6 feet of social distancing were topped with firewood sticks to cleverly mark them as prohibited. He also repainted the interior. Santana has reduced the menu to 13 items to reduce food waste, and all but two of the dishes – the best-selling roasted broccoli and sprouted porridge bread – are new.
Resnick received a loan from the Federal Government’s Pandemic Relief Program Paycheck Protection Program, which he will use over the next four months to cover the lion’s share of his labor costs. . When asked if smaller capacity restaurants would still make a profit when the P3 money ran out, Resnick paused before answering.
“We are not sure,” he said. âWe’re gonna do what we can, and if that doesn’t work, we’re gonna pivot. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll rotate again.