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COVID-19 Related Reopenings Welcome News For Restaurants, Even If Operations Are Still Limited

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(KCLU photo)
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Downtown Ventura after the state's stay at home order shut down outdoor restaurant service in December.

It’s been a rough winter for many restaurants on the Central and South Coasts.  The state’s COVID-19 stay at home orders shut down on site outdoor dining during the holiday season, a time of year when they are normally doing big business.  But, word that they can once again offer outdoor service comes as welcome news.

Warren Butler is General Manager of Santa Barbara’s Chase Restaurant and Lounge.  The State Street restaurant has been a go-to spot in the community for four decades. 

Like many restaurants, it hobbled through the last few months doing takeout-only.  Butler says they stayed open during the holidays and into the New Year operating at a loss.

Butler says when it come to bad news for restaurant, when it rains, it pours.  They got the go-ahead to resume outdoor service as what could be the biggest storm of the season is expected to hit the region this week, making the prospect of dining outdoors less than inviting.

The state moved Monday to lift the state’s stay at home orders.  The state had been using hospital intensive care unit capacity in the state’s regions as guidance for closures.  If it dropped below 15%, it triggered the orders.

But, the latest four week projection shows ICU capacity for the 11 county Southern California region which includes Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo County rising to 33%.

The net result is the state is dropping the regional approach, and returning to color tiers to manage county reopenings.  The Tri-Counties is in the most restrictive tier, purple, but Governor Gavin Newsom says that still opens the doors to some reopenings.

But, the reopenings, and some improvements in statistics don’t mean the crisis is over.  Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties had 4200 new cases of the virus, and 32 additional deaths Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  The governor says if we are lax, we could see yet another surge.

For those in some businesses, like hair salons and barbershops, the reopenings are a lifeline.  And for restaurants, a return to outdoor dining is expected to be a help, especially when the weather improves.

Butler says for some in the restaurant business, it’s already too late.  He says some of the places which shut their doors in the last year since the pandemic began will never reopen.