Editor’s Note, Dec. 4, 2020 at 3:20 p.m .: Officials in five Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley decided on Friday to issue the stay-at-home order effective December 6. All of the interviews in this article took place before the announcement and was written in speculation about when the order would be placed.
The Bay Area restaurant and bar industry, like many others, has struggled with the pandemic over the past year, but the announcement of a possible stay-at-home order on Thursday predicts more dark days.
California Governor Gavin Newsom introduced the framework for a regional stay-at-home order, with the state’s regions having to implement shutdown rules once ICU capacity drops below 15%. With the new shutdown, restaurants will again have to dine outdoors and only offer take-away. Bars, meanwhile, will be forced to close as part of the order process (although it is currently unclear if this includes bars that have worked with grocery vendors).
To be clear, the transition back to take-out is not (yet) happening. However, according to state projections, the Bay Area could potentially fall under California’s home stay ordinance by mid-December if COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. As of Thursday evening, the California Department of Health announced The Chronicle that the available intensive care capacity in the Bay Area region is 25.4%. That percentage doesn’t take into account, however, that we most likely didn’t see the predicted increase in Thanksgiving cases.
Since outdoor dining began a few months ago, restaurants and bars have barely passed by. When asked how eating and sitting outside helped through the pandemic, Laurie Thomas, restaurateur and executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, called it “critical”.
“We wouldn’t be open if we couldn’t – my two restaurants and many people wouldn’t be either,” Thomas told SFGATE. “It doesn’t make you any money, it just puts you in the situation where you have the chance to break even. And that’s why this next shelter-in-place order, if and when it comes into play for our bay Area County Region, will be devastating. “
For the catering trade in particular, the prospect of being closed in December is particularly great. Thomas said the month is usually a boon for restaurants as people go out to dinner for the holidays, but that even without the expected income from corporate parties, for example, December should boost business.
“This level of uncertainty is incredibly difficult for anyone who will be affected,” said Thomas. “It won’t affect our friends in the software world other than they won’t be able to eat out. So it’ll disturb people who want to make reservations and go out, but it won’t be devastating.” Just as it will be for our industry, where people lose their paychecks in a year-end vacation situation where their families and children are counting on them to feed them. Usually this is a time when people do some banking and have the money to buy gifts for their children, put food on the table, and pay rent on January 2nd. There is a lot of stress in our industry right now and as owners we are used to caring for employees. I am like our family. “
For bars, however, it’s a slightly different story. Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, said December month can usually be slow for bars, but an industry shutdown would devastate an already injured group.
“I think we were hit really hard,” said Bleiman. “I think our industry, like many others, is absolutely devastated. The outdoors [seating] saved some bars from the nasty destruction and if we have to switch off it will be really, really bad.
Bleiman estimated that eating and sitting outside were “extremely effective” for 90% of San Francisco bars. “They don’t make money, they lose money – but they lose money more slowly because they can dine outside,” he said. However, selling take-away bars will have little impact on which bars are needed to cover costs such as rent.
“To-go sales are nothing, they don’t help. They hardly help,” said Bleiman. “Very, very few companies survived or even approached a profit by just going to-go. In fact, I think it was probably better for most bars not even to offer that, most of them. A. Couple am Had the edge [to-go] dialed in, but it didn’t make sense to most. The to-go business is therefore not a comparable alternative to eating outdoors. Eating outdoors saved many of them. “
The Old Devil Moon’s patio was a lifesaver for the bar, but owner Chris Cohen acknowledged that outdoor space wasn’t feasible for everyone in San Francisco.
Courtesy Old Devil Moon
Chris Cohen, a partner at Old Devil Moon bar in San Francisco, tried to investigate the “silver lining” of the possible closings during the bars’ traditional slow December period, but so far he has noticed that most have been fighting over the past month of colder weather. Cohen said he and his two bar partners worked “with no personal income” for most of the year and that while their bar made take-out cocktails out of necessity, it just didn’t help in the long run.
“At Old Devil Moon, we were literally one of the first in town to start making batch take-away cocktails when it was first announced as allowed,” Cohen said. “We did this spin right away because we knew there was just no other option. But I’ll say the to-go business isn’t that good. It’s not sustainable for regular bars and restaurants. … It’s something that helped us meet our highest costs in the early stages of COVID, but being able to dine al fresco has been enormous. We’ve hit maybe a third of what we normally would in terms of Would have been money. “
Doug Dalton, owner of Future Bars Group, agreed that takeaway wasn’t very helpful for business. The list of bars, which include Bourbon and Branch and Zombie Village, has largely remained closed during the pandemic. Only Devil’s Acre and Lark have reopened with parklets, and their liquor stores Cask are selling bottles for pickup.
“To-go isn’t even feasible for us other than Cask,” said Dalton. “Cask makes it good to take away, but for the bars themselves we didn’t find it feasible to have a to-go offer. If the parklets were closed, that would close.” [our] Bars.”
With the shutdown looming and the timing and length of time uncertain, Thomas said it is possible that many restaurants are considering the option of foregoing takeaway and instead choosing to “sleep” and temporarily close to Save costs.
“The Gavin thing [Newsom] said today that coincides with what I’m worried about is these three week stoppages that could be extended, “said Thomas.” There is no guarantee it will be three weeks. This isn’t our first rodeo here; We know what is happening. Most people are likely to make decisions, if God forbid we go into that 15% category in mid-December, then people like me and other restaurateurs will likely hibernate for December because they have no choice and then probably in January too . “
Thomas has advocated all kinds of business facilitation, including more futile Paycheck Protection Program loans and grant-based grants, but most of the restaurateurs and bar owners that SFGATE approached expressed frustration that there was little or no further government relief is imminent.
“We’re working our asses off for free just to get the lowest income we need to pay the bills,” Cohen said. “While I am certainly not against measures like Newsom’s – I think these things are necessary – it is frustrating to feel left behind as an entire industry. For example, property taxes are still due December and they give that Give people a tiny break of a thousand dollars that have to be paid for later anyway. Things like that are actually going to put people out of business, so there’s a lot more level to do in the state. “
There has also been a lot of frustration among those who have not properly adhered to the wearing of masks. John Konstin Jr., co-owner of John’s Grill, tries to stay positive but admitted that there is some frustration with these disregarding mask rules.
“There’s no easy way to look at it or express it, you know,” said Konstin. “But we did it once and it looks like we’re back here. We just have to keep being optimistic, positive and looking at things in a very entrepreneurial mindset that once we’re done with the Having to start planning It’s exhausting, all the start and stop, but if the world or California were just wearing a mask or taking it more seriously, we just wouldn’t have to deal with it – but unfortunately that’s not the case. “
It seems to be a matter of when, and not when, the new shelter-in-place regulation in the Bay Area will be enacted, and the next steps for restaurants and bars have become a personal move that the precarious position harmonizes every single company. For his part, Konstin is working to ensure that John’s Grill survives.
“The fact that we’re doing it all again eight months later is frustrating,” said Konstin. “And it has nothing to do with politicians, it has nothing to do with their plans or what they put into effect. It has to do with us as people, as a community, that we all have to take it seriously. And then that is it . ” is a serious threat to our economy, to our health, to everything. It was crazy, but in terms of [us]John’s Grill has gone through two pandemics in a lifetime. We have been there since 1908. And so we made it through the Spanish flu, and we have plans to hold out and pan and make it through COVID-19. “
SFGATE news editor Amy Graff and reporter Eric Ting contributed to this report.