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I Feel Relief’: San Diego Business Owners On Ever-Changing COVID-19 Reopenings

The interior of London Nail Spa in Point Loma is shown with safety modificati...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: The interior of London Nail Spa in Point Loma is shown with safety modifications in place on Jan. 26, 2021.

Monday's lifting of the stay-at-home order means businesses can reopen, with modifications, and restaurants can serve outdoor diners.

Some business owners aren't as happy about that as one might think.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

“Now we start over again.”

That's what Rudford's restaurant owner Jeff Kacha said. Even though he can now return to serving customers outdoors at his North Park eatery, he's not happy about what led up to this point.

“When you own a restaurant, they shut you down, your inventory goes down and you have two choices, give it away or throw it away. So that’s what we (did), seven times.”

Kacha would’ve been ready to go with a tent on what was part of his parking lot. Mother Nature, however, dealt a cruel blow with Monday's high winds. The tent is now a crumpled pile of tarp.

“There’s water. There’s poles, you know," he said. "Thank God nobody was in there. Thank God it was at 4:00 in the morning."

Kacha, he said, was fortunate in that Rudford’s has been around a long time with a lot of loyal customers.

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Reported by John Carroll , Video by Roland Lizarondo

"We miss seeing our guests dine on the premises,” said Pop Pie restaurant co-owner Steven Torres.

Though Torres is happy that customers will soon be able to return to the outdoor street dining space at this University Heights restaurant, he’s been luckier than most because of his business model.

“Take out was big for us from the get-go," he said. "Take out, delivery.”

Torres didn’t have to lay off any of his employees. Even so, he said the last 10 months have been difficult.

It’s been a challenge for all of us, physically, mentally and emotionally” Torres said.

Then there are the businesses that have been closed completely since the stay-at-home order was issued in late November 2020.

At London Nail Spa in Point Loma, the last time they were open for business, they were doing it in a tent out in front. Now, with the stay at home order lifted and the required safety modifications in place, they are ready to welcome back customers.

“I’m so happy. I feel relief,” said owner Cindy Phan.

Operating like this isn’t anything like it was pre-pandemic. Phan has to space appointments out further apart, meaning fewer customers overall.

And her hope for the future is tempered by what she’s been through.

“We’re still in the bubble. But we try hard, like everybody I think,” she said.

For these San Diego business owners and so many thousands more like them, things are now a little better even as the COVID-19 roller coaster ride rolls on.

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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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