Food hall vendors losing business as COVID-19 concerns continue

TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- It's been a sobering reality for small businesses across America. Food halls and urban outdoor eateries were growing trends, but now they've turned into ghost towns.

Sales have declined drastically for vendors at places like Anaheim Packing House, Steelcraft and Mess Hall in Irvine.

County and state-wide social distancing directives have limited business owners in the food service industry to deliveries and to-go orders.

The owners of Vaka Burger, Aaron and Esmeralda Perez, tried to hang on as long as possible, but after only ringing up $65 in one day, they made a hard decision.

"I think I speak for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs. It's scary for us right now," Esmeralda Perez said, adding that sales have "literally plunged like 95 percent. That's how bad it is."

"I'm Latino, so I'm stubborn, you know. I want to ride it out. I had to swallow my pride and admit that this might not work out for the time being," Aaron Perez said, adding, "I'm emotional 'cause I'm thinking about our employees."

Perez was forced to lay off their family business workers.

One of those, Gerardo Montil Espinoza, who said his loss impacts him, his family and his entire community, added in Spanish, "It's the loss of a job for an undefined period of time, the worry of how to pay the bills and keep going."

"We're individuals that are out there pursuing the American dream, and we're trying to break the mold and create something to leave behind to our kids and you know, to be examples that anything is possible," Esmeralda Perez said.

Some vendors at Steelcraft in Long Beach, Bellflower and Garden Grove were able to stay open as of Friday. That's the same story at the Anaheim Packing House, but Vaka Burger was the last small business keeping the lights on at Mess Hall in Irvine, until further notice.

You can click here for updated information on vendor services available at:
Steelcraft, Anaheim Packing House and Mess Hall.
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