Innovation Brew Works has navigated reopening with outdoor dine-in seating last month, crafting a social atmosphere for students, while adhering to health and safety measures from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
As part of its reopening plan, the brewery borrowed tables from the campus through the Dining Services and transformed the end of its parking lot into a place where friends and family can congregate safely with six people or less per table. Tables can also be reserved if students call ahead.
Floor Supervisor Valerie Valenzuela explained that employees are required to take the campus health screening test before coming into work to keep track of their symptoms. This determines whether they are cleared to come into work.
Along with the test, tables are sanitized before and after customer usage with a peroxide-based sanitizer known to kill COVID-19. There are tiny gold balls placed on tables indicating whether they are clean or not, and the staff sanitizes all the high-touch points — like bathrooms, tables and railings — by the hour.
“Customers are required to have their masks on at all times,” Valenzuela said. “The governor just added that they should have their masks on in between bites or drinks. That is our main new rule we are enforcing.”
Under local regulations, restaurants in LA County serving alcohol are enforced to require customers to order an entrée with each alcoholic drink. At Innovation Brew Works, an entree is considered a pizza that can be shared by two people, a sandwich or a salad. All food and beverage items are also served in plastic cups and on paper plates. For safety purposes, students are expected to leave after finishing their meal, but food and growlers are also available to go.
Due to the pandemic, some staff members were laid off, but with new reopening rules emerging from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the staffing situation is improving. Every staff member that was laid off was offered their original job back when the brewery opened back up in the summer.
“We did have to lay off some staff, but luckily when the governor said it was OK to have outside seating, we were able to get back a lot of student workers,” Valenzuela said. “It was hard at first because a lot of staff went back home and do not live in the area, but we were able to recruit students who were on campus and around the area.”
Even amid a virtual fall semester, Innovation Brew Works has seen growth in its customers since the beginning of the summer. While still not comparable to the number of people it would see during a normal academic year, given the circumstances, Valenzuela is grateful for the steady customers they do have.
Dionne Zhao, a second-year hospitality management student, and her friend Taylor Bachman, a second-year liberal studies student, stopped by the brewery for dinner last week. The two locals and former roommates were excited to revisit the establishment, a place that reminded them of being back at college.
“We used to come here all the time freshmen year,” Zhao said. “We would go with all our friends, and it was super convenient because we could use our meal points. It’s nice to be able to come back and feel like we are somewhat back at school.”
Bachman echoed Zhao in feeling like they were able to have a slice of their college experience back after it being put on hold for many months.
“I just really love the food here, obviously, but they created a really nice seating area for us too,” Bachman said. “We come here once a week, so hopefully everything goes back to normal soon so this can be a regular thing again.”
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