Alameda’s restaurant and bar owners issued a plea to local and state officials Monday asking to expand outdoor and indoor dining as coronavirus cases continue to decline in the Bay Area.
The business owners are part of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce’s Restaurant and Bar Coalition, which the chamber formed to help struggling owners collaborate on solutions to keep their businesses afloat.
After nearly two months under the state’s stay-at-home order, which restricted restaurants to only serving takeout and delivery, Alameda County is back in the most-restrictive tier of the state’s four-tier reopening system.
While restaurants and bars that serve food with alcohol can resume outdoor dining, restauranteurs say they’re still not bringing in enough sales to stay open without financial help.
“Our revenue has gone down to about 20 percent of what it used to be,” Sidestreet Pho owner Hanh Nguyen said during the coalition’s virtual meeting Monday. “We used to have about 15 to 20 employees; now we’re down to five employees.”
That financial burden is even higher for businesses that opened since the pandemic began in earnest last March.
Dianah Rodriguez, owner of The Preacher’s Daughter wine bar and cafe, said her business does not qualify for federal relief funding through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program because it opened in September, well after the pandemic had started.
“We haven’t established the clientele over the years like many other businesses have,” Rodriguez said. “So that’s kind of been our huge struggle.”
Under the state’s reopening framework, Alameda County would have to whittle its average number of new coronavirus cases per day per 100,000 residents below seven and get its test positivity rate below 8 percent to allow indoor dining to resume at 25 percent of a restaurant’s capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Even with new cases on the decline, county public health officials have cautioned residents that vaccinations against the virus will not be a panacea and that new, more transmissible variants may result in new spikes in cases.
“We may be past the winter surge, but COVID-19 is still with us,” Dr. Nicholas Moss, the county’s public health officer, said last month when the state lifted its stay-at-home order.
“We are only in the early stages of our vaccination campaign, and the virus has shown us it is capable of returning again and again,” Moss said. “That means that, even as we cautiously reopen, we must continue to do the things we know work to keep each other safe.”
In the meantime, restaurants will continue to struggle to stay open, members of the coalition said, even with additional funding from the relief package that federal legislators are currently considering.
“We’re just looking for help from anywhere,” Rodriguez said.