​”Restaurants can’t survive on takeout, it’s a bandaid on a severed leg.”

PictureOutdoor dining on Miller Avenue.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the EMV Blog has been beating the drum on behalf of all Mill Valley businesses. But few have been hit as hard, and as often, as our local restaurants. And are as much of a multiplier – that is, creating a ripple effect for surrounding businesses – as restaurants. 

That’s what makes the state’s stay-at-home order, and the Bay Area health officers who preemptively put it into effect on Dec. 8, specifically its ban on outdoor dining, so devastating, particularly given that there exists no hard data to support it, so much so that Los Angeles County officials suffered a legal setback in county Superior Court when a judge found that county officials “acted arbitrarily” when deciding to close outdoor dining back in late November 25 and that County officials have a specific duty to “perform the required risk-benefit analysis” when making decisions about restaurant closures. The judge noted that County officials “could be expected to consider the economic cost of closing 30,000 restaurants, the impact to restaurant owners and their employees, and the psychological and emotional cost to a public tired of the pandemic.”

Marin Independent Journal columnist Dick Spotswood also called on government agencies to rely more on science to justify shutdowns and bans on specific sectors. “While indoor actives are a proven virus spreader, the science supporting elimination of commercial outdoor activities is lacking,” he wrote

Marcia Gagliardi, creator of the Tablehopper website that has covered date Bay Area restaurant scene since 1994, eloquently and at length put the gut-wrenching conundrum into context this week, and while we encourage you to read the entire piece, we’re sharing some excerpts below:

“This sudden stay-at-home order has massive consequences. So many workers to lay off or furlough, yet again (although this time it’s right at the holidays), with too many without any access to benefits, while unemployment benefits are ending soon for those who do have them (as well as paid sick leave and eviction protections). Rent and unpaid bills loom. Thousands spent on parklets and heaters. Farmers and purveyors and suppliers are suddenly needed less, or not at all, and just need to be paid. The hoped-for holiday income from this month has vaporized.”

​”Restaurants can’t survive on takeout, it’s a bandaid on a severed leg, but all many can do is try and limp through the next month. Many are choosing to hibernate now, hoping the situation improves in January. Or February. Who even knows? Will they even reopen?”

“Most owners and chefs who are angry and verbalizing their anguish over this stay-at-home order are thinking of their employees–this isn’t about prizing money over the health of our community, it’s about the survival of their team. They see the ripple effect, the spiral. They see the dependence on these paychecks—even with current limited hours and greatly diminished income—and what it means to turn them completely off. They’re so tired of everyone being jerked around. They feel deep responsibility for their service team. So many are deeply concerned for their employees’ mental health, let alone their own. Another wave of depression has been unleashed. No owner wants to endanger people and for anyone to get sick: their employees, their regular customers dining at their patio tables, their fish guy.” 

“While speaking with Laurie Thomas, the Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, she says there’s a messaging problem: if there’s going to be faith in our leadership, and if we’re going to modify our behavior like we’re being asked, then we need more clarity about the criteria for how these drastic decisions are being made, and what is our target.
I know many people are questioning: where is the data about virus transmission during outdoor dining? Why didn’t we get to reduce outdoor capacity, instead of wiping it out with two days’ notice—especially when we were just told by Governor Newsom that we probably had a couple weeks before that could happen?”

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to make this stimulus stalemate end and get some version of the RESTAURANTS ACT (which would provide $120B in grants to bars and restaurants) included and through the Republican-led Senate before they adjourn for the year; this bill passed the House in October and has been mostly ignored and plodding through the Senate since then.”


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