"Hospitality" Cannot Live On Carry-Out, Curb-Side, or Take-Out Alone

audrey wells


Photo by Jérémy Stenuit on Unsplash

And restaurants deserve to serve while the sun still shines.

Sacramento restaurateurs and small business advocates’ collective exhale was audible but public grievance even louder.

Within minutes from the start of Tuesday morning’s meeting shouts from outside the building could be heard as a group opposing civic citations and enforcing fines on businesses… as well as residents who choose to defy County mandates under Sacramento’s current ‘purple-tier’ status.

Unprecedented it was yet there it was… ‘IRT’ [In Real Time]—a vocal group of 30 or more local citizens—loud and ‘on-location’, demanding officials to ‘LET US IN! LET US IN!’ during the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, December 8.

While the protest was well within earshot of Board chambers, located inside the Sacramento County Administration Center, the high-stakes meeting and could also be heard by ‘the public’ who also attended ‘virtually’ by a real-time video feed and call-in system

Reliable sources report the Board received over 3,000 emails opposing fines as 85 callers called and queued-up to patiently remain ‘on hold’ for as long as it would take, ready to have their turn to speak—as individuals, as citizens, small business owners, and in many cases—as restaurant owners.

Shelve Fines. Period. [‘For Now’…Health Officials Warn]

Further discussion amongst County board members, Sacramento County Health Director, Dr. Peter Bielsen, and his staff revealed the fines were not only punitive but flawed to a great extent;

“While I fully agree that we all have to do our part to get through this pandemic, I believe imposing server fines on business owners wo are trying to keep afloat is a horrible waay to do it.
Especially when these fines come from a system thatt is being set up with no due process and a low to non-existent burden of proof for enforcement,” explained Supervisor Frost.

Board Chairman Phil Serna offered his support positing;

I think this is the prudent thing to do in terms of sensitivity to trying to balance enforcement with limiting the virus transmission. Something as important as this deserves the time necessary to think it carefully through.

So Think It Through: They adapted. Do Not Force Them to Perish.

While callers originally waiting to share their opposition on the agenda item at hand—the decision to table voting on the ordinance until further notice—did not quell their need to speak.

Restaurant owners’ comments revealed the urgency of addressing further issuance of purple-tier mandates—set specifically to ban outdoor dining based on hospitals plummeting ICU capacities kept callers on-line and eager to address the Board.

Diane Lally, Special Events Manager for several popular restaurants including one upscale nightclub brought up a video that had gone viral featuring “Angela”, a Sherman-Oaks restaurant owner who expressed her anger and frustration over the closure of her restaurant after new COVID-19 rules went into effect.

The video captured Angela Marsden’s emotional reaction when she saw craft services set up within a few feet of her restaurant’s permanent outdoor dining area.

The craft service provider employed nearly the exact same staging of tables and seating, including 4–5 large pop-up tents in order to serve lunch to cast and crew their production team their meals while working ‘on location’ via outdoor buffet.

Restaurants, specifically in California and other regions where outdoor dining, while not ideal is still feasible, can even be made enjoyable if not at least tolerable—for a price.

They Leveled Up To Stay Afloat: Why Pull the Plug?

For an industry hit hard in March 2020, Federal funding offered some relief as many geared up to remain both compliant and cautiously optimistic.

Most business owners in the food, beverage, and hospitality communities invested their ‘relief money’ in order to adapt to a barrage of new health and safety mandates—above and beyond California’s already high standards of practice for their trade.

Dining rooms and gathering places now required more space to social distance, standards for ventilation indoors; including table spacing and room redesigns to accommodate plexiglass, as well as purchasing personal protective gear of all varieties to keep employees and patrons safe.

Al Fresco: Their Only Way To Go

March’s shutdown came to a merciful end for businesses relying on customers who like to eat, drink and be social in June—bringing with it warm weather, at times perhaps too warm, yet when dining outdoors—late meals and balmy evenings can even be a treat.

Unfortunately, the weather, even in California, can be unfriendly and unpredictable. Expanding restaurant dining rooms from indoors to outdoors requires more than adding ‘extra seating outside’.

In some cases, patios and dining spaces had to be added where none existed prior, and retro-fitting this new space brought other considerations including where and how guest-seating relates to the position of the sun throughout the day.

Cicada Cantina’s outdoor framework can be seen from Highway 99. Driving south from Sacramento into Elk Grove, the Mexican restaurant and bar laid out 20 tables with propane heaters making their expanded dining area with its ginormous white tent, metal poles professionally-driven into the concrete—Delta Breeze friendly.

December 11 12 PM CELLPHONE ALERT WE'RE SHUTDOWN: Outdoor Dining Is Off the Menu And Outdoor Upgrades Become Garnish

For Cicada Cantina, 70% of their revenue comes from dine-in customers.

It’s safe to say, general manager, Alejandro Ballesteros speaks for a majority of restaurant owners and its industry employees;

Just to-go, that’s going to be a hard hit on us. We did everything the way it was supposed to be done, and now we’re going to be shut down. Wow, yeah. It’s definitely going to hurt us.

Restaurants make money in several ways; walk-in dining, catering, special events, and small orders for takeout and delivery. Every restaurant develops its own unique business model based on a variety of factors and portion these income streams differently.

Relying on just one slice of their usual sales is challenging enough and unfortunately, the numbers more often reveal that takeout, to-go, delivery, or curb-side tends to be the least profitable slice of all.

During the Winter of 2020 during the holiday season when banquet rooms, catering, and large parties are making both restaurant owners and their loyal patrons merry and bright—it’s getting close to impossible for new and longtime restaurateurs desperate and struggling in the COVID-trenches to feel the holiday spirit.

[This is a developing story.]

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East coast roots—West coast spirit. "Tell the truth and shame the devil." ~ Françoise Rabelais Writer, artist, proprietress and antique peddler with reverence for the past and aspirations for the future.

Sacramento, CA

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