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San Diego Restaurants Back In The Dine-In Business, With Coronavirus Modifications

Mike Damron
People eat inside of STP Bar-N-Grill in Clairemont Mesa on the first day restaurants are allowed to reopen for dine-in service, May 21, 2020.

For the first time in two months, some restaurants and retail stores are welcoming customers inside to eat and shop.

"This is huge. We’re really happy to see all our customers back here," said STP Bar-N-Grill co-owner Tina Romano.

STP Bar-N-Grill reopened at 11 a.m. Thursday, ready for diners.

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"We expected people here," Romano said.

"We’re over staffed for it," said co-owner Shannon Beckwith.

People did show up to their Clairemont restaurant, dining out for the first time in two months.

"First day in an open restaurant. Kind of tired of the takeout, and want the experience of being back normal again, and this is the start," said Michael Szuch, who lives just down the street in Clairemont Mesa.

State guidelines call for increased sanitation and physical distancing measures. STP has hired an additional staff member to help with cleaning. Guests at the eatery Thursday said they feel safe.

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"Oh yeah, totally comfortable," said Mary Szuch.

Others were excited to be back out.

"I heard it on the news this morning, so we all talked about getting out, support the local businesses," said a patron who only identified himself as Chris. "Everybody should get out and support the local businesses. They need it."

When COVID-19 restrictions first hit, STP saw sales cut in half. Since then, its owners have built up takeout sales, but had been waiting to open their dining room. New guidelines do pose some challenges.

"A lot of it is going to be a little bit difficult because we can’t fill up our restaurant the way we were operating before," Romano said.

The Chicano Federation in San Diego is concerned about the impact of re-opening on San Diego’s Latino community, workers and customers. Latinos in San Diego have already been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tables and bar stools have been spaced apart, and condiments are all being given out in single use containers. Customers do not seem to mind and are just happy to eat out again.

"Hoping people understand it’s still a little new. Some places will probably be crowded and packed," Michael Szuch said. "[People] have a little compassion. Take some time and enjoy."

County officials said Thursday it should not be law enforcement’s job to enforce new guidelines and they are hoping everyone will reopen responsibly.

Not all restaurant owners are making the move to reopen right away. A good tip might be to call your favorite restaurant before heading out.

San Diego Restaurants Back In The Dine-In Business, With Coronavirus Modifications
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.