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Santa Barbara County Restaurants Hard-Hit By Coronavirus Safety Issues Resume Limited Indoor Service

Santa Barbara County's improved coronvirus status has led to limited indoor sitdown service in restaurants, but some say continued outdoor operations are essential to making operations work financially.

Business is good at the Chase Restaurant, in Downtown Santa Barbara.  The restaurant never closed during the pandemic.  It was hard hit like many restaurants when coronavirus health orders limited it to takeout only.   It benefited from the ability to expand outdoor operations.  Now, for the first time limited indoor service is being allowed.

Warren Butler is Acting General Manager at the Chase.  He says they are excited to be able to resume indoor service for customers who want it, but with social distancing requirements, the restaurant simply could not survive with the limited indoor seating which is allowed. 

Butler says the 25% capacity cap means they can only use a handful of indoor tables.  Having the outdoor space is critical.

Joleen and Sean O’Connor are having lunch at the Chase with their daughter, Jaydee.  The Pasadena family is in Santa Barbara because Jaydee is moving to Isla Vista to begin her senior year at UC Santa Barbara. 

Sean O’Connor says he isn’t quite ready yet to dine indoors.  Jaydee also says the idea makes her a little nervous.

Edgar Hernandez has been a server at the restaurant for 17 years.  He even with the change this week allowing some indoor operations, most people still want to sit outdoors.  But, he notes the heat wave did prompt a few to opt for inside because of air conditioning.

Indoor operations could become more important in a few weeks, when we start to get cooler weather, and perhaps even rain, and dining al fresco isn’t as attractive.  It’s another reason that it’s important for Santa Barbara County to show continued improvement in controlling coronavirus numbers, setting the stage for restaurants, as well as other indoor businesses to increase capacity.

Butler says many downtown businesses are also hoping to see the State Street closures, and expanded outdoor operations made permanent.

Santa Barbara County has to stay at the red level status it attained this week for at least three weeks before the state will consider allowing a move to the next level of reopenings. 

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