Restaurants can offer dine-in service, but reopening isn’t as easy as it sounds

The day after officials announced that restaurants are allowed to reopen to dine-in customers, many Long Beach restaurants were sticking to take-out only while they made the proper preparations to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said at a Friday news conference that residents shouldn’t expect things to reopen quickly, especially since many businesses have indicated they’re not ready yet.

At George’s 50s Diner in Bixby Knolls, owner Helen Alvarez handed her customers their take-out orders from behind a table and counter. Saturday mornings would normally have the iconic diner bustling with people and families eating breakfast, but since the coronavirus pandemic started, the teal leather booths and black counter stools have sat empty.

Georges50sDiner

Now, sheets of plexiglass lay atop the tables as they get ready to install them between the booths and cut their capacity by 60% to comply with the new health orders. The orders require servers to wear face shields and cloth masks.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls from customers today,” Alvarez said, wearing a face shield and two masks. “… We miss everybody, but we want everybody to be safe.”

She said that she and her husband have waited months to reopen, so they could wait a few more days to make sure everything was set up properly. But she added that it hasn’t been easy for them financially and once they reopen, they will only be able to let in half of their 65-person capacity at a time.

“If it takes longer to get everyone in, if we have to have extended hours, we will,” Alvarez said.

In Downtown Long Beach, many restaurants aren’t opening to dine-in customers until next week. A manager at George’s Greek Cafe said they would be reopening to dine-in customers on Wednesday. L’Opera posted a sign saying it would reopen Monday.

Broadway Pizza and Grill, with “reserved” signs on every other table and staff wearing face shields, was open to dine-in customers, but was largely empty on Saturday afternoon.

Nearby, The Big Catch Seafood also continued offering take-out services only. They plan to reopen for dine-in on Wednesday, but still have to hire staff and put protocols in place, manager John Fox said.

“It’s been a little frantic getting everything back together,” Fox said, noting that he lost several employees who had to move away or get other jobs during the stay-at-home orders. Two “now hiring” signs were taped to the windows.

The biggest issue beyond setting up is that his restaurant will be losing two-thirds of its capacity because a majority of its seating is communal-style tables and benches, he said.

“We’re a small restaurant and with us being a smaller spot, we’re already closer together,” Fox said.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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