Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
California Restaurants Expect Rebound That Will Take Years
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 3 years ago on
May 19, 2021

Share

SACRAMENTO — Nearly a third of California’s restaurants permanently closed and two-thirds of workers at least temporarily lost their jobs as the pandemic set in more than a year ago and Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide lockdown, a legislative committee reported Tuesday.

Few business sectors were more battered than the dining industry, which before the pandemic included more than 76,000 eating and drinking establishments employing 1.8 million people, according to the California Restaurant Association.

But with the shutdown, as many as a million of those workers were quickly furloughed or laid off, the association told the state Senate’s Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response.

“COVID-19 has upended all of our lives, but its impacts have been felt more acutely in the restaurant industry,″ said Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman, who heads the committee and led the hearing on the issue. “It is clear that recovery will take time.”

Lack of Labor Despite Economy Reopening

Restaurant employment is still down one-quarter from before the pandemic, according to the latest numbers from the state Employment Development Department.

Industry leaders said they fear a lack of labor may shutter more establishments as the economy reopens.

The state initially closed nonessential businesses, though it allowed food-serving establishments to continue offering takeout meals. Its color-coded tier system for reopening the economy later allowed restaurants to offer outdoor seating or indoor dining at various levels of capacity as coronavirus cases eased.

With infections dwindling, vaccinations increasing and a positivity rate below 1%, officials say California is on track to lift most remaining restrictions on June 15.

Yet many restaurants are struggling to serve the customers already allowed under current capacity limits because of a lack of staff, the committee said.

Potential employees may be able to make ends meet with unemployment and federal stimulus benefits instead of going back to work, it said in its report. Some may fear for their safety during the pandemic, while others may want “more stable career paths” after being repeatedly furloughed.

“Right now we’re just at the beginning of feeling this crunch,” said Matthew Sutton, California Restaurant Association senior vice president for government affairs and public policy.

Industry is Expected to Eventually Rebound

Without providing specifics, he said lawmakers might want to use part of the state’s massive budget surplus to create an incentive program for employees to return to work. Other committee witnesses said they’re hoping for more direct aid either through stimulus or tax relief funding.

The industry is expected to eventually rebound, the restaurant association reported, creating another 160,000 jobs by 2029, for a total of nearly 2 million statewide.

“This is a two- to three-year recovery,” Kevin McCarney, founder and chief executive officer of Southern California’s Poquito Más restaurant, told the committee. In the meantime, restauranteurs said they have to recover from the revenue they lost while their fixed costs like rent and insurance continued.

“It’s not a given that we’re going to survive,” said Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and owner of two popular restaurants. “We’re all digging out from so much the past 15 months.”

With a lack of specifics from the state on the June 15 reopening, she fears restaurants will be allowed to return to full capacity only with vaccinated customers, leaving their staff to become “the new ID police” expected to check vaccination cards — a role she and others said they can’t handle.

Frustration with Shutdowns and Lack of Assistance Programs

Several witnesses expressed frustration with the state’s changing shutdown rules or lack of information on assistance programs, though Greg Dulan, owner of Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen in Los Angeles County, said the state-funded Great Plates food delivery program saved his business during the pandemic.

Health officials’ abrupt shutdown orders gave restaurant owners no time to ramp down employment or distribute food, beverages and other supplies they had just acquired, witnesses said at the hearing.

In hindsight, the state lacked evidence to back up its decision to close outdoor dining and that rationale “was not effectively communicated,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis, though he said the evidence of virus transmissions during indoor dining was much more clear.

With no time to collect data on the risk of transmissions from open air contact, health officials had to use their best judgment at the time but now understand that the risk of outdoor transmission is low, said Willis and California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health executive director Justin Malan.

“We may not have had all the right answers … but remember, this was a novel coronavirus,” said Malan. “We didn’t have a blueprint on how to respond to this.”

Restaurants said they adapted to a new business model on the fly during the pandemic.

They could offer curbside deliveries or deliveries off-site, or expand into outdoor areas like patios, sidewalks, parking lots and closed-off streets with local approval — innovations that may remain for some time.

Some adopted disposable menus or ones customers could view on their smartphones. And Sutton said improvements restaurants made to their indoor airflow and filtering will remain long-term.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Hot Rod Willys: Driven to Bake the Perfect Chicago-Style Pizza

DON'T MISS

Local Leaders Must Put Their Shoulders Into Making Fresno ‘Education City USA’

DON'T MISS

EdSource Welcomes Fresno News Veteran Jim Boren to Its Board

DON'T MISS

Senate Dismissed Two Articles of Impeachment, Ending Trial on Mayorkas

DON'T MISS

Netanyahu Dismisses Calls for Restraint, Says Israel Will Decide Iran Attack Response

DON'T MISS

New Study Calculates Climate Change’s Economic Bite Will Hit About $38 Trillion a Year by 2049

DON'T MISS

Biden Pledges to Block Japanese Takeover of US Steel and Promises Tariffs on Chinese Steel

DON'T MISS

Don Arax Talks About His New Football Job at Visalia’s Central Valley Christian

DON'T MISS

Dem House Challengers Salas, Gray Flex Fundraising Muscle

DON'T MISS

Career-High Strike Outs for Ryan Weathers as Marlins Best Giants 6-3

UP NEXT

Vital Climate Tool or License to Pollute? The Battle Over CA’s First Carbon Capture Project

UP NEXT

NPR Editor Suspended Over Claims of Network’s ‘Progressive Worldview’

UP NEXT

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

UP NEXT

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

UP NEXT

New Recruiting Programs Put Army, Air Force on Track to Meet Enlistment Goals. Navy Will Fall Short

UP NEXT

Paris Hilton Backs California Bill to Bring More Transparency to Youth Treatment Facilities

UP NEXT

Ex-Marine Gets 9 Years in Prison for Firebombing California Planned Parenthood Clinic

UP NEXT

California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter ID Law Passed at Polls

UP NEXT

Justice Thomas Misses Supreme Court Session Monday With No Explanation

UP NEXT

‘Civil War’ Declares Victory at the Box Office, Toppling ‘Godzilla X Kong’

Senate Dismissed Two Articles of Impeachment, Ending Trial on Mayorkas

2 hours ago

Netanyahu Dismisses Calls for Restraint, Says Israel Will Decide Iran Attack Response

2 hours ago

New Study Calculates Climate Change’s Economic Bite Will Hit About $38 Trillion a Year by 2049

2 hours ago

Biden Pledges to Block Japanese Takeover of US Steel and Promises Tariffs on Chinese Steel

3 hours ago

Don Arax Talks About His New Football Job at Visalia’s Central Valley Christian

3 hours ago

Dem House Challengers Salas, Gray Flex Fundraising Muscle

5 hours ago

Career-High Strike Outs for Ryan Weathers as Marlins Best Giants 6-3

5 hours ago

LeBron’s Lakers Top Pelicans in Play-in, Set up Playoff Rematch With Nuggets

5 hours ago

Storm Dumps Record Rain and Floods Dubai’s Airport

5 hours ago

Mookie Betts Matches Career Best with 5 Hits in Dodgers’ 6-2 Victory Over Nationals

5 hours ago

Hot Rod Willys: Driven to Bake the Perfect Chicago-Style Pizza

The natural question is, “How did your pizza shop get its unusual name?” Hot Rod Willy’s is at 337 E Shaw Ave Suite 101 on...

10 mins ago

10 mins ago

Hot Rod Willys: Driven to Bake the Perfect Chicago-Style Pizza

51 mins ago

Local Leaders Must Put Their Shoulders Into Making Fresno ‘Education City USA’

1 hour ago

EdSource Welcomes Fresno News Veteran Jim Boren to Its Board

2 hours ago

Senate Dismissed Two Articles of Impeachment, Ending Trial on Mayorkas

2 hours ago

Netanyahu Dismisses Calls for Restraint, Says Israel Will Decide Iran Attack Response

2 hours ago

New Study Calculates Climate Change’s Economic Bite Will Hit About $38 Trillion a Year by 2049

3 hours ago

Biden Pledges to Block Japanese Takeover of US Steel and Promises Tariffs on Chinese Steel

3 hours ago

Don Arax Talks About His New Football Job at Visalia’s Central Valley Christian

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend