Kevin Cody

LA County serves a big ‘turkey’ to restaurants. Shuts down patio serving beginning Thanksgiving Day

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Eat at Joe’s in Redondo Beach takes a poke at Governor Gavin Newsom for not socially distancing while eating indoors at The French Laundry in San Francisco, despite the ban on indoor dining. Eat at Joe’s and other Los Angeles restaurants must stop outdoor serving for three weeks, beginning Thanksgiving Day. Photo by Beverly Baird

by Donald Morrison 

South Bay restaurants will be banned from serving on their outdoor patios, beginning Thanksgiving Day, for the first time since outdoor service was allowed in May, further crippling one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants have been prohibited from serving indoors since Saint Patrick’s Day.

The new restrictions, announced on Sunday, will limit restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars across Los Angeles County to pick-up and takeout service for at least three weeks. The announcement was triggered by the county receiving an average exceeding 4,000 new, daily coronavirus cases over a five-day period last week, Los Angeles County health officials said. 

County Health warned additional restrictions, including a stay-at-home order, may be issued if new cases exceed 4,500 a day for five days.  

On Monday, the County reported eight deaths and 6,124 new, confirmed cases, the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began in March.

Local restaurant owners and Beach Cities officials have forcefully opposed the temporary ban on outdoor dining, saying the increase in Covid-19 cases in the beach cities isn’t as drastic as it is inland, and that the LA County Public Health office casts too wide a net when placing restrictions on the entire county. 

“Closure of these businesses will have an immense impact on the economic and mental health of many who are already on the verge of bankruptcy and struggling to provide for their families,” Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and to Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

A motion to allow restaurants to serve outdoors at 50 percent capacity was voted on by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, but failed on a three to two vote. District Supervisor Janice Hahn (South Bay) and Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger (Santa Clarita) cast the two supporting votes.

Many local restaurant owners spent thousands of dollars building outdoor dining areas after a partial reopening was approved in May.

“We’re not doing what we used to but it’s enough to pay the employees and pay the mortgages and the overhead, ”said Hennessey’s Taverns owner Paul Hennessey. “They’re slowly easing us out of business.”

Hennessey said he laid off nearly 400 employees at his dozen Southern California locations at the beginning of the pandemic.

“And we’ll probably have to lay off employees again,” Hennessey said.

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for most restaurants.

Hennessey’s H.T. Grill in Redondo Beach offers a Thanksgiving buffet each year and planned to serve it outside this year.

“We have to cancel all those reservations,” Hennessey said. “Hopefully we can do it to go.”

Chris Bredesen, a partner in The Rockefeller, which has locations in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, said he laid off 100 employees at the beginning of the pandemic, many of whom didn’t return when outdoor dining opened up in May. 

“We had to do new training for 25 percent of our employees. It was the biggest lift ever,” Bredesen said. “And now we’re going through that same process again.”

Mike Simms, whose restaurant group owns Simmzy’s, Manhattan Beach Post, Fishing with Dynamite, The Arthur J Steakhouse, and the Tin Roof Bistro, all in Manhattan Beach, said he was devastated to hear outdoor dining would be banned during the holidays. 

“We’ve always figured out how to survive and we will continue to, but for us the biggest concern is just employment,” Simms said. “We’re going to lay off or furlough hundreds of people again. What are our team members supposed to do for three weeks, likely longer?”

Simms’ restaurants had a combined, 1,200 Thanksgiving reservations at the time of the outdoor closure announcement. He said his kitchens will now be serving the Thanksgiving dinners as to-go orders. ER


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