By Shawn Raymundo
Following Southern California’s fall under a new stay-at-home order, requiring restaurants and eateries to focus solely on takeout services, State Sen. Patricia Bates and a bipartisan group of fellow lawmakers are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to reclassify the restaurant industry as an essential service.
In a letter sent on Friday, Dec. 11, to Newsom’s office and signed by 11 state senators including Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), the group implored the governor to place restaurants under critical infrastructure “before even more damage is done to our communities.”
“The COVID-19 guidelines implemented by your Administration have had a devastating impact on the restaurants that provide critical jobs and revenue to our communities,” the letter stated. “Many restaurants have gone out of business, and now, with the approach of the winter and new guidelines that restrict indoor dining, many others will be forced to consider similar choices.”
The Southern California Region, including Orange County, was placed under a three-week, stay-at-home order beginning last week as coronavirus cases continued to skyrocket, causing a record number of hospitalizations and depleting capacity in intensive care units.
As of Thursday, Dec. 17, adjusted available ICU capacity in the region hit 0%. In Orange County on Wednesday, Dec. 16, it was also 0%.
Under the new stay-at-home restrictions, which are expected to last through at least Dec. 27, private gatherings and the mixing of households are prohibited, while mask-wearing is required in all sectors.
While all in-person dining, bars, breweries, wineries, hair salons and barbershops, and personal care services must remain closed, restaurants can still offer takeout and delivery. Retail and grocery stores can remain open with 20% customer capacity.
Though some eateries have complied with the order, switching to takeout services, some in South Orange County have continued to operate their outdoor dining sections in order to stay afloat.
A recent survey that the National Restaurant Association conducted found that 100,000 U.S. bars and restaurants have had to close their doors either permanently or for a long-term period. The staggering figure represents roughly 15% of the industry, news outlets reported.
Citing reports from the California Restaurant Association, the state senators noted that 60% of restaurants in California are owned by people of color, and that 50% of the state’s restaurants are owned or partly owned by women.
“In 2019, more than 1.8 million jobs were attributed to the restaurant and food service industry in California. This equates to approximately 11 percent of employment in the state,” senators said the letter. “Closed restaurants mean jobs lost, missed rent, mortgage and car payments and a lot of unemployment checks.”
The letter goes on to claim that during the pandemic, restaurants have taken the steps to promote safety for both staff and customers, further stating that the industry has come up with guidelines for the establishments to keep their doors open.
“The industry has proposed guidelines that would allow restaurants to continue to operate safely and at capacity levels that will allow restaurants to stay afloat, while at the same time implementing safety protocols that address the unique challenges inherent with indoor restaurant operations,” the letter stated.
Editor’s Note: An abridged version of this story was published in the Dec. 17 edition of the San Clemente Times.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.