Restaurants in Sacramento County on Sept. 29 received the long-awaited news that they could resume serving customers indoors.
That action was part of the county’s move into the less restrictive red level of the state’s four-tier system for determining when counties can move forward with business re-openings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The colors of this system are purple, red, orange, and yellow, and these color levels are based on the number of new COVID-19 cases and infection rates.
Although restaurants in the county can now open their doors to the public, they can only serve their customers indoors at 25% capacity. In the previous, purple-level second tier, restaurants were only permitted to provide outdoor dining.
The Citizen on Oct. 6 visited some of Elk Grove’s restaurants to find out how they have fared since the county permitted indoor dining.
During those visits, it was discovered that some have struggled more than others.
California Wok & Grill, which resumed its indoor dining on Oct. 2, has experienced extensive financial struggles since the pandemic began in March, the restaurant’s owner, Tran Van noted.
“We’ve lost like 75% of our (business),” he said.
Van told the Citizen that he and his wife, May Huang, have decided to at least temporarily keep their business open to pay their bills on their restaurant space.
“We haven’t got paid for like a whole year, so we’ve just got to be here no matter what,” he said. “We opened (the restaurant during) the first week of January 2020. It was very bad timing. If I knew two months ahead, I wouldn’t even (have opened).
“We’re thinking about by the end of this month, we’re going to quit and just walk out and leave everything here. Right now, we’ll see what happens.”
Oscar Acosta, who manages Super Taco Mexican Restaurant on Laguna Boulevard, told the Citizen that this business has benefitted well from reopening its indoor dining area on Sept. 29.
“Now that we opened both areas, we’re at the same level, combined,” he said. “As long as we’re allowed to have the patio dining, we’re going to be able to survive, but if they take that down – that option – we’re not going to be able to.”
Acosta mentioned that this business was heavily impacted during the early portion of the pandemic.
“We went through a little valley there at the beginning of the pandemic with the shutdown-startup,” he said. “It was really, really bad for maybe a month and a half, maybe two months. We had to lay off people, reduce hours.”
Acosta added that he takes COVID-19 very seriously, especially since his daughter tested positive for this virus.
“My daughter got it and she was really bad,” he said. “I almost lost her. It was really, really bad, but for some reason, I was taking care of her, but I never got it.”
Matt Leatherby, general manager of Leatherby’s Family Creamery, said that his family’s business lost “thousands upon thousands of dollars” per month due to COVID-19-related business restrictions.
Leatherby noted that the reopening of Leatherby’s indoor dining has been helpful.
“We’ve been doing pretty well (since that opening),” he said. “Sales aren’t terrible right now by any means, but, of course, when you’re forking money out to make a buck, it’s difficult.
“We’ll keep fighting as long as we can. I have 70-plus employees here that I want to make sure that they have jobs at the end of the day, and, of course, I need to pay my bills.”
Bob Briscoe, owner of Elk Grove Sports Bar & Grill, spoke about his business losses due to closures and restrictions.
“I’m probably doing about 40% of what I did before COVID(-19),” he said.
He added that his business has not received much benefit from reopening its indoor dining on Sept. 29.
“I think we’re doing OK,” he said. “We’re hanging in there.”
While meeting with the Citizen, some restaurants operators noted that they have chosen not to reopen their indoor dining areas.
Christine Veimau, owner of The Sandwich Spot, explained why she has not yet allowed her patrons to dine inside her restaurant.
“I would rather be on the safe side for my customers’ sake and for myself and my employees,” she said. “It’s really small and tight fit in here, so if I let people sit in here, it’s really like only two people, four at the most.”
Erica Lu, of Tea Garden Chinese Restaurant, said that this business is taking a wait-and-see approach to reopening its indoor dining area.
“Right now, we’re closely watching everybody else and how they operate,” she said. “There’s no telling when. I haven’t got any word back from the owner herself as to when an open date will be.”
Lu added that the pandemic has greatly affected the restaurant industry.
“It was hard on everybody, not just us,” she said. “We’re seeing places close down. It’s tough, but we kind of just rough through it a little bit. It’s safe to say that we’re OK. There are some days that are slower than others, and I think that’s everywhere else, as well.
“I just wish everybody is doing the same thing: Staying safe, being healthy. And we can definitely get through this together.”