San Diegans Ventured Out During Holiday Weekend, But Crowds Lighter Than Usual
Speaker 1: 00:00 This holiday weekend has seen the return of dine in restaurants in San Diego. It's a big relief for many eateries that have seen their staff, their profits and their prospects shrivel during the two months when they've only been allowed to serve takeout. But the restaurant reopening is not a return to normal modifications and safety measures will make dining out quite different for the foreseeable future. Joining me is PJ Lamont, one of the owners of Raglin public house in ocean beach and PJ, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:30 Thanks for having me. Speaker 1: 00:31 How did the reopening go this weekend? Speaker 2: 00:34 Um, it went very well for us. We uh, we have been planning for it for quite some time and uh, just running through different scenarios. So we were, uh, we were prepared when we did get the, uh, the, okay. So the week prior we had set up a to go station outside of the restaurant for people that still wanted to do, uh, you know, take out and delivery. We had re organized our layout inside the restaurant and already had put into place our safe and clean action items. Speaker 1: 01:02 What kind of response did you get from people who were actually, uh, able to dine in a restaurant again? Speaker 2: 01:08 Oh man, for the most part it has been a great response. People were very excited to come back in a little, it was a little different, you know, with the masks, the gloves and then, uh, also having to have the customers wear masks. I think that has been the most confused and for people I think. Speaker 1: 01:24 Yeah. Tell us a little bit more about that. What is the experience like now for patrons who dine at your restaurants? Speaker 2: 01:31 I mean, the, the experience is so much of what it was before. Just obviously what the barriers that we have now that customers do have to have a mask upon entry. And that is the, the county's rule. So I mean, we are enforcing it and some people question it, don't want to do it. We, we provide them in case they don't have one. I don't know. But aside from that, I think most people are just happy to be kind of getting back to somewhat of a normal and getting some interaction with people. Um, so it's been overwhelmingly positive. Speaker 1: 02:04 Do you do temperature checks on patrons? Speaker 2: 02:07 We do not. Not on patrons, just on staff and vendors. Temperature and wellness. Speaker 1: 02:11 And how much capacity have you lost because of social distancing and other safety measures? Speaker 2: 02:17 Quite a bit. Um, I'd say we're operating at about 30% of what we were operating at before. A big one is the bar areas as well. Not having patrons at the bars. Uh, cause that obviously is a lot of seating. Speaker 1: 02:31 And you also have been using stuffed animals, you know, in a way in your restaurant. Tell us about that. Speaker 2: 02:38 That one has been probably the coolest um, feedback we've gotten. So yeah, we just have oversized stuffed animals that we put at the tables where, uh, where there isn't a six foot distance. Um, and opposed to just taking the tables out, which makes it look kind of, you know, just bare we put the animals in and the amount of comments, photos, laughs that we get out of it. It was a, it was pretty fun idea. Speaker 1: 03:03 Now, last week the County shut down a PB bar and restaurant El pres after videos posted on social media showed crowds of customers drinking in close proximity without masks, no social distancing, et cetera. Are you concerned about restaurants that aren't complying and what that could mean for the local industry as a whole? Speaker 2: 03:23 Uh, hugely concerned. Um, because everyone's different and as far as that situation, I really appreciate how the County handled it by being case by case, opposed to just doing a blanket ban back on everyone again because you know, there's always going to be a couple of bad actors out there that give a a pretty rough look for the rest of us that are going above and beyond Speaker 1: 03:46 PJ because restaurants have been closed for so long and there's a significant amount of renovation and equipment involved in this kind of reopening. Is the cost of dining out going up? Speaker 2: 03:58 I believe it will be, yes. I mean the margins in restaurants are already very fine and yes, the overall cost is going to be going up. Speaker 1: 04:08 And uh, okay, so the cost may be going up and the, the industry experts say they expect to see as many as 40% of restaurants fail because of the hit they've taken in closing plus reduced dining space and patronage. How are you planning to survive this challenge? Speaker 2: 04:29 Um, I mean I agree. I think that 40% is probably spot on if not more. Um, again, we did plan ahead. So at our restaurants we did build these takeout and uh, take out and delivery sites outside of the restaurant and that is now giving us over 50% of our current sales. Um, just have this past weekend is our only only example to go off of. But uh, that, that's one of the major ones. We may have to increase prices and time as well, but labor kind of is what it is. Um, you need extra staff on to make sure all of the safe and clean procedures are being diligently taken care of. Speaker 1: 05:12 You know, this Memorial day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season. Your restaurant is in ocean beach. Uh, usually that means, you know, um, weeks and weeks and months of, of, of partying. I mean people having a good time and, and yet because of the new safety measures, they, it may make dining out more of a hassle for patrons. How do you balance those two concerns? Speaker 2: 05:36 Um, it's, it certainly is a hassle for people that are just kind of looking to escape, you know. Um, but we do our best about letting people know our processes Mmm. As far as like masks or if they would like to do reservations via open table or calling in the restaurant. Um, and when they do come in, where we may start limiting times to be at a table to say two hours. So yes, it is going to be, it's going to be a delicate balance on both ends. I mean, being a customer as well, you know, you want, you want to enjoy yourself without having so many restrictions and rules. But I think if you explain to people in advance and in a friendly way, people, people seem to understand Speaker 1: 06:23 now when and how are you going to know if this new normal is working out for your restaurants? Speaker 2: 06:28 Um, I mean, if this weekend is an indicator, I'm confident that it will work out. Um, obviously, like you said, it was Memorial day weekend and that is a giant influx of people. It was also the first weekend that we've been allowed. So I think a lot of people are eager to get out. Mmm. But if this weekend is a, a test of what's to come, I mean, I think that, I think that will be okay. Speaker 1: 06:53 I've been speaking with PJ Lamont, one of the owners of Raglin public house in ocean beach. PJ, thanks so much for taking the time. Yeah. Thank you very much.