“We’re absolutely jubilant, and everyone we talked to at their tables was just glad to be out again in public, they were just glowing,” said owner Mark Oliver of Pueblo serving Baja-inspired cuisine at 877 Hornblend St. in Pacific Beach. The restaurant reopened for dine-in just before Memorial Day weekend.
But Oliver offered this caveat. “We did maybe 50% to 60% of the sales, in about 50% of the seating, that we did last year on the same Memorial Day weekend.”
This suggested to Oliver, “There’s a very good chance that we may not have one month of profit, maybe for another year. It could be a negative cash flow situation for quite a while.”
“We’re open and we’re kicking,” said John Gelastopoulos, owner of Broken Yolk, a regional restaurant chain that started in PB at 1851 Garnet Ave.
“We reopened our dine-in on May 21 with almost 50% of space in our main room, with signs on every other booth saying they were closed for social distancing. We also had paper menus that are disposable.”
Though encouraged by dine-in turnout the first weekend of reopening, Gelastopolous concurs with Oliver that getting back to “normal” could be difficult.
“I like what I’ve seen,” he said. “But we still had a lot of deliveries, and I don’t think that’s going to go away. It’s going to take some time for the public to get over this (pandemic) fear.”
Michel Malecot, chef and owner of The French Gourmet at 960 Turquoise St., who expects to re-open for dine-in in early June, agreed with Oliver and Gelastopolous that Covid-19 may have permanently changed San Diego’s restaurant landscape.
“I think the business will drastically change. Before the pandemic, my business was about 60% catering,” Malecot said, adding social distancing stifled his catering.
“Since the pandemic, my take-out has been doing very well, and the bakery and to-go are drastically up,” he said. “But I’m doing a third of the business right now that I used to do.”
The state has approved San Diego County to move further into Stage 3 re-opening, allowing dine-in customers at restaurants and in-person shopping for retail businesses, with modifications to protect the spread of coronavirus.
Businesses need to follow the guidelines, complete and post safe reopening plans. The new regulations require businesses and restaurants to demonstrate compliance with requirements for social distancing, disinfection, sanitation, and safe operations.
Other coastal restaurants were just overjoyed to be back in business, though many admitted pandemic health restrictions now in place present significant challenges to successful operations.
“We are so delighted to be able to open, even with the restrictions,” said Amy Bulgatz, CFO for Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill, which recently renovated at 875 Prospect St. in La Jolla. “We are so excited to see our employees and guests again and are eager for life to get back to normal. We were very lucky to be able to be open for take-out to at least keep some employees and fulfill the cravings of our guests for their favorites. But nothing beats the vibe of a dine-in restaurant.”
"We are thrilled to open our dining rooms to San Diegans, and hope to be a source of entertainment, nourishment, and joy,” said Eric Adler, a co-founder of Puesto La Jolla at 1026 Wall St. “Be assured we are doing our part to ensure a safe space for everyone to enjoy.”
“We were excited to open our restaurant offering dine-in services,” said Morgan Barnes, spokesperson for Lagom Balanced Food at 723 Pearl St. “We decided to utilize our outdoor area and move some tables on to the sidewalk (6 feet apart). We feel like this is a good opportunity for us to create a friendly outdoor area in addition to our dining room. We will continue to serve fresh and healthy breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We look forward to serving the community.”
Recently remodeled Westfield UTC, which bills itself as an outdoor retail resort, announced it and other shopping centers it has countywide will re-open May 29.
“The centers will welcome back customers with modified hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, although individual retailer hours may vary,” said Nino Rodriguez, Westfield’s VP of shopping center management. “We are excited to welcome back guests and come together as a community again. As we begin our initial recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, our centers will be equipped to provide a healthy, clean, and safe environment for our customers, retailers, and employees. We are committed to ensuring the best experience possible as we prepare to open our doors again."
New Westfield center practices include:
• Increasing the frequency of cleaning measures with a focus on high-touch areas such as restrooms, play areas, dining areas, and water fountains;
• Monitoring and controlling the number of guests entering the centers and crowds in dwell areas and queuing lines; and
• Implementing and enforcing relevant policies related to social distancing, face masks, and other preventative measures.
In addition, Westfield will continue working with select retailers to facilitate curbside pick-up to make it as easy as possible for customers to quickly and safely collect purchases.
Some other coastal eateries reopened for dine-in included: Draft at Belmont Park; Firehouse in PB at 722 Grand Ave.; The Duck Dive at 4650 Mission Blvd.; Pacific Beach Alehouse at 721 Grand Ave.; Bub’s at the Beach at 1030 Garnet Ave.; Breakfast Republic at 4465 Mission Blvd. re-opening for dine-in soon; and Nashville-style Dave’s Hot Chicken, debuting May 29 at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Cass Street.
But not all restaurants made it through the pause to reopen for dine-in, or at least not right away.
Whisknladle Bistro & Bar in La Jolla at 1044 Wall St. recently announced, after 12 years in business, that it has closed noting they “could not see a path forward for the restaurant in the era of COVID-19.”
The Fishery, a fixture in PB at 5040 Cass St., announced it will close temporarily May 31 for a revamp, to re-open in mid-June with a new chef and a remodeled bar and fish market.