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More Layoffs Expected After Restrictions Targeting Indoor Activities Hit San Diego

Restaurant workers in Old Town San Diego wear facial coverings due to COVID-1...

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Above: Restaurant workers in Old Town San Diego wear facial coverings due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Thousands of San Diegans were laid off when restaurants closed for dine-in service at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, with dine-in closures reinstated, more people are expected to be ... Read more →

Aired: July 8, 2020 | Transcript

When the pandemic first hit and eateries were forced to stop their dine-in service, the San Diego Workforce Partnership received some 18,000 layoff notices from workers in bars and restaurants.

With closures now reinstated for indoor operations at restaurants, museums, zoos, cardrooms, theaters and family entertainment centers for at least three weeks, the agency expects to see more layoffs.

"I don't know that it will be necessarily as significant as the first round of layoffs in San Diego ⁠— because it’s not across the board ⁠— it will be significant again," said Rachel Merfarlen with the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

This time restaurants can stay open if they are serving customers outside. Eateries can use their sidewalks or parking lots to serve food.

RELATED: 'The Data Is Headed In The Wrong Direction;' San Diego Health Care Systems React To Rising COVID-19 Cases

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"My staff’s cut down at least by 50% now. So then you have to figure out who’s going to work and who’s going on unemployment," said Eric Christiansen, co-owner of Guava Beach Bar and Grill.

Christiansen has no patio and no parking lot at his restaurant in Mission Beach, so as of Tuesday his dine-in sales were nonexistent. He made the tough decision to again cut servers and said without dine-in it is hard to get by.

"Takeout’s pretty tough," Christiansen said. "I was down maybe 25-30% with dine-in ⁠— which is doable. Takeout, I'll be down around 80%. So at some point, if we aren’t allowed to put tables out front we’re going to have to weigh our options is it even worth it to do it (takeout)."

Christiansen was talking with the city of San Diego about using the sidewalk in front of his eatery for outdoor dining. Late Tuesday afternoon, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer cleared the way with an executive order saying restaurants can begin using sidewalks and parking lots without a permit.

Reached by phone about the news Tuesday, Christiansen said he was excited and was already removing tables for his dining room to be put outside.

Christiansen said he was going to be calling some of his servers back to work and will try sidewalk dining starting on Wednesday.

For those finding themselves out of a job again with these most recent closures, the San Diego Workforce Partnership hosts a webinar every Friday at 10 a.m. with reps from the California Employment Development Department to answer questions.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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