Restaurant impossible: county officials restrict outdoor dining

The latest blow to the restaurant industry was dealt last week when Los Angeles County public health officials announced that outdoor dining at restaurants will be suspended for at least three weeks due to a recent surge of COVID-19 cases. Local restaurants near Cal Poly Pomona are now adapting in response to this latest shutdown.

Late last month, LA’s five-day average of new cases increased to more than 4,000 cases, forcing the county to take action. With the ongoing pandemic and this latest measure, attracting regular customers has proven to be a challenge for local restaurants like JJ Boba on W. Temple Ave.

“Labor has been cut down twentyfold because we don’t need nearly as many people on shift with hardly any customers walking in,” said JJ Boba manager Jose Gil. “We’ve had extremely low sales without Cal Poly or Mt. SAC students coming by, but we’re optimistic things will smooth over.”
The new modification to the county health order began Nov. 25, though with cases continuing to rise, it is possible that restaurants will not return to on-site dining for longer than the scheduled three weeks.

CPP students from neighboring counties such as Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange still have outdoor dining options available to them. Unlike LA, these communities have chosen to withhold restrictions. Potentially bringing business to those counties’ restaurants while LA waits at least three weeks before outdoor dining comes back.

Innovation Brew Works, a café and brewery located at Innovation Village on the CPP campus, recently began to attract customers on weekends thanks to outdoor dining, but its employees are now preparing for business to slow down again.

“We have our GrubHub delivery signs up around campus still, but it’s disappointing we won’t be able to put our outdoor patio to use,” said manager Maria Nino. “Business has slowed down drastically, so we’re hoping it doesn’t get much worse with customers just having take-out available.”

The latest restrictions on restaurants have challenged Brew Works to strategize alternative ideas to keep business steady.

“We’re having a holiday sale on merch, including brand-new Christmas sweaters we’ve designed,” said Nino. “Customers can also purchase a $99 dollar punch card that has 10 redeemable punches for growlers.”

Zero Degrees, an Asian Hispanic fusion chain on W. Temple Ave., has struggled without the support of local students as well.

“It’s much slower this time of year compared to usual,” said Zero Degrees manager San Hyunh. “We used to get so many students coming in to hangout and study for their finals. I miss seeing all those happy faces.”

With more restrictions seemingly on tap due to the surge, it is likely local businesses will need to continue getting creative to stay open.

“We don’t have any great ideas to work a miracle, but I assure you we’ll think of something,” added Hyunh. “Right now, we just need the help of our loyal customers and the people of Pomona to keep the lights on.”

(Feature image courtesy of Drew Beamer)

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