Laguna Beach moved over the weekend to implement a regional order banning outdoor dining as the number of patients critically ill with COVID-19 continues to spike in Southern California.
City staffers removed tables, chairs, and umbrellas from dining and retail display decks at the Promenade on Forest Avenue. Likewise, city leaders instructed restaurant operators to pull tables and chairs from outdoor dining parklets citywide.
A security officer will patrol the Promenade to ask all community members to wear masks and social distance, and avoid gatherings of any kind. All upcoming entertainment at the Promenade has been suspended until further notice.
A number of hay bales placed around low tables remained but there was no one visiting the Promenade on Monday morning, a downtown business owner said.
The impact of limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery is already hitting Laguna Beach eateries.
Cary Redfearn, owner of Lumberyard and Slice Pizza & Beer, said Monday morning that he’s probably going to furlough about 40 of his 60 employees between his two restaurants. Despite going through shutdowns earlier this year, Redfearn said his team has remained incredibly resilient despite the financial uncertainty.
“They’ve seen their hours go up, down, and disappear,” he said. “I can’t even say enough about them. I think that goes for a lot of people in this industry. That’s just how restaurant people are.”
On Sunday, Lumberyard patrons dined on the adjacent outside patio coined the Yard Bar. In a video montage posted to the restaurant’s Instagram account, smiling customers and masked employees wave to the camera with “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole playing in the background.
“The community has been incredibly supportive,” Redfearn said. “The last few days people have been telling me, ‘Carey we’re going to be getting lots to-go from you.’”
Laguna Beach has designated metered parking spaces as curbside pickup locations, offering free 10-minute parking for customers at local restaurants and businesses. Businesses can apply online for the temporary conversion of a metered space for curbside service.
Nirvana Grille is encouraging customers to order directly from its website or by phone to support its 15 employees through the shutdown of on-site dining, Executive Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales said Monday.
She and her employees are personally delivering meals to work around drivers from food delivery companies who show up too early, cancel deliveries, or take the wrong order.
“It’s not even about the money,” Smith-Rosales said. “Our experience during this shutdown is someone shows up 20 minutes before they say they’re going to be ready.”
Nirvana Grille’s servers have offered to drive meals for minimum wage. They just want to keep working, Smith-Rosales said. She’s also tried to elevate the takeout and delivery experience by serving food on porcelain plates that customers can keep warm in the oven until they’re ready to eat.
As a recently divorced mom with two sons, Smith-Rosales said Sunday night was sleepless as ideas swirled for how to keep her business open to support not just her own family but those of her employees.
“How are people going to tell their kids ‘we’re going to cancel Christmas this year?’” she said. “That doesn’t seem like a reasonable way of going through the holidays. We’re finding value in the things we need, like more time together.”