Business / Economy

Deja Vu: businesses toughing out stay-at-home order

Outdoor dining helped restaurants stay afloat prior to the shutdown enacted Dec. 7.

Having operated at three different locations for over 20 years, Country Rose Cafe owner Sharon Baker said her Hollister business will comply with state requirements after a second pandemic shutdown forced restaurants to cut their operations to take-out and deliveries only. 

But restaurants cannot survive in that mode for long, as they learned early in the pandemic. Baker estimates Country Rose can continue for three weeks without indoor or outdoor dining—the amount of time San Benito and other San Joaquin Valley Region counties will remain in California’s latest stay-at-home order if intensive care unit availability drops below 15%.

As of Dec. 8, the San Joaquin Valley Region had 5.6% ICU availability, while San Benito County had all four of its ICU beds full. San Benito County is included in this region—along with Merced, Kings, and Stanislaus counties—because its demographics and hospital capacity align more with those counties than with the Bay Area region that includes Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. 

Along with indoor and outdoor dining restrictions for restaurants, playgrounds, salons, barbershops and wineries are to remain closed while the order is in place. 

“It’s really hurting us really bad,” Baker said. “I feel so bad for our employees. They need to work and we need money to pay everybody.”

According to the California Restaurant Association, between 900,000 and 1 million restaurant workers have either been furloughed or laid off since the pandemic began in March.

Baker said Country Rose was just recovering from the initial stay-at-home order. She said she let go at least 12 employees as of Dec. 6.

“I had all my people back since July,” Baker said. “Now we are going backwards again.”

Gustavo Gonzales Jr., general manager of La Catrina Mexican Grill, said four employees voluntarily opted to “rest” during this shelter-in-place. However, he said the 20 employees that opted to continue working will receive significantly fewer hours.

“Nuestra principal preocupación es que se mantengan nuestros empleados trabajando,” Gonzales said. “Esperamos reabrir pronto por que si es una situación difícil mantenernos así.” (Our primary concern is to keep our employees working. We hope to reopen soon because it’ll be difficult to sustain operations like this.)

La Catrina General Manager Gustavo Gonzales on Dec. 8 in an empty parklet located in front of the restaurant on San Benito Street. Photo by Noe Magaña.
La Catrina General Manager Gustavo Gonzales in the restaurant’s empty parklet on Dec. 8. Photo by Noe Magaña.

Gonzales said he expects to lose more than half of the restaurant’s sales and only make enough money to keep it operational. He said while the easy choice is to close and wait to reopen until outdoor dining is allowed again, it would mean starting again from scratch. 

Though it has not let go of any employees, La Sabrosa Fine Mexican Cuisine is also struggling to survive on take-out and delivery only. Owner Phil Hernandiz said the restaurant will not be able to withstand the three-week shelter-in-place and that the parklet program “helped a lot” in keeping the restaurant alive. 

For Baker, with a bank account getting smaller and smaller, she said the solution is to offer outdoor and indoor dining with social distancing requirements and let the customers decide where they feel comfortable. Otherwise, businesses will depend on government relief to get by. 

“People are saying, ‘just open,’” Baker said. “Everybody in Hollister is saying, ‘just open.’”

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.