Reopening California: Even when allowed to reopen, SoCal restaurants face major challenges

When restaurants are allowed to reopen, they'll operate under tight restrictions, including occupancy limits and requirements for plastic utensils.
PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- While the state is beginning to lift some restrictions on certain businesses, local restaurants still face a long road ahead.

Lucky Baldwin's pub and restaurant in Pasadena sits empty. It's only open for takeout a few days a week.

"Ours and restaurants, pubs like this, are places where people are coming to socialize and gather together so our business is gone down drastically to nothing," said owner Peggy Simonian.

Simonian has owned the Lucky Baldwin's for years and is now struggling to pay the bills. She normally has a staff of about 50, but for now she's only able to pay two cooks.

"It's all about volume, the only way that we restaurants can survive is about volume and if you take the volume away it's no different than what I'm doing right now," said Simonian.

The proposed CDC guidelines for reopening would change a lot of restaurants. They would use throwaway menus and single-serve condiments. They would need disposable forks, knives, spoons and dishes.

There would be sneeze guards at cash registers. There would be limits on the number of employees on the shift and they wouldn't be able to have buffets, salad bars or drink stations.

"When you look at what the requirements are going to be with disposable utensils and plates, that changes the whole dining experience," said Stuart Waldman with the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.

On top of everything restaurants would be required to keep a safe distance between patrons. For some restaurants that's simply not possible.

"Restaurants throughout LA operate in tight spaces. You're on top of each other, their servers are always bumping into you. They will not survive," said Waldman.

Simonian says she has another Baldwin's pub in Old Town Pasadena and hopes that might be able to reopen because it has a large patio.

"I'm hoping if they do gradually open that places like that, that have an outdoor patio area, might be a good place to slowly open up and for people to sit down and dine," said Simonian.

She also worries what will happen when customers come back. Even if restaurants follow all the rules, if someone gets sick, will they be blamed and face lawsuits?

"It gets to the point of there's so much responsibility that's been put on small businesses and restaurants like this - do I really even want to open?" said Simonian.
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