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San Diego Restaurateurs Do Their Best To Stay In Business During Pandemic

A worker making pasta at Cesarina in Point Loma with a sign requiring face co...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: A worker making pasta at Cesarina in Point Loma with a sign requiring face covering on the premises, July 21, 2020.

At Cesarina in Point Loma, co-owner Niccolo Angius knew just what to expect once COVID-19 hit. His family all still lives in Italy, a country devastated by the virus.

“So, we started thinking of what to do like ahead of time, knowing that there was no chance here that things were going to be different,” Angius said.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

Ever since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the first-in-the-nation stay at home order, the people who own and run restaurants have been whipsawed from one public health order to another.

First, everything closed, then open for take-out and delivery only, then indoors open, but restaurants had to close by 10, then a couple of weeks ago — no more indoor dining.

“It’s frustrating because you cannot, you can’t look at the long run as we usually like to do ... and now you know every day something changes, but we’re lucky because being a small business gives us the opportunity to be fluid and flexible,” said Angius.

RELATED: Poway Mayor Wants To Offer Picnic Tables To Restaurants For Outdoor Dining

Reported by John Carroll , Video by Roland Lizarondo

For Cesarina, being fluid and flexible translated into a secondary outdoor dining area that Angius and his colleagues built themselves. And along with being fluid and flexible, add fortunate. Cesarina kept all their 46 employees on, they shared whatever profits they made with them, and they were able to secure some financial help.

“We were granted Payroll Protection Plan halfway through the stay-at-home order and so that gave us the opportunity to bring everybody back on the normal payroll for 8 weeks,” Angius said.

He said business is OK now, but only about half of what it was pre-pandemic.

Not far away in Liberty Station at the Liberty Public Market, they were lucky. They already had a big patio outside. Still, it’s been tough for the small restaurateurs here.

More than 30 operations ply their trade inside Liberty Public Market. They work under the auspices of Blue Bridge Hospitality, based in Coronado.

“We have people who are not multiple business owners, or large business owners and to a lot of them, every day is kind of a make or break at some point," said Matt Gordon, Liberty Public Market's vice president of operations. "So I think everybody including us was extremely scared about what the future could be.”

Both Gordon and Angius said at this point, they’re just taking things day by day, like all restaurateurs large and small, doing their best to navigate uncharted waters in the age of COVID-19.

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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