“At 25 percent, it’s really not a tenable number for small businesses to be able to survive,” Sparrow + Wolf’s manager John Anthony said, just hours before the governor’s Monday announcement. At the time many in the industry were still holding out hope the restrictions might be loosened after this Friday, when Sisolak’s initial extension of a “statewide pause” from November was set to expire.
Elizabeth Blau, who operates Honey Salt near Boca Park and Buddy V’s Ristorante on the Strip, said the occupancy cap doesn’t make sense, especially when applied to outdoor dining.
“If you are safely spaced outdoors on a patio, I don’t understand that 25 percent restriction,” Blau said. “And I don’t understand why we should be forced to have a 25 percent restriction if we can separate people by 6 feet.”
For Lola Pokorny, who has temporarily closed her downtown location of Lola’s — A Louisiana Kitchen, the extension could mean she’ll have to scramble at her Summerlin restaurant if her beloved New Orleans Saints continue to do well.
“Since the Saints are doing well, and we’re in the playoffs, it would be a travesty being the biggest Saints bar in the valley and not being able to host the biggest Super Bowl party,” she said Monday afternoon. “We would have to move things out to the parking lot, put up a tent, get variances from the fire department and still maintain social distancing.”
While the 25 percent occupancy limit was the primary concern of every restaurant contacted for this story, views on other restrictions varied.
“The reservation-only system, I have no issue with,” said Main St. Provisions owner Kim Owens. “And I do believe in ensuring that we have contact information for every guest, in case someone communicates that they have been diagnosed with COVID. As far as the (limit) to parties of four is concerned — if you are a family of five, let’s say, I find that to be a little challenging. I think it would be smart to let households be able to dine together, but I do understand that at that point you have to make the decision as the owner (of the restaurant) whether they are living in the same household or not.”
Sam Marvin, of Echo & Rig in Tivoli Village, expressed similar thoughts.
“The reservation (rule) doesn’t really make a difference,” said Marvin. “But the party of four (rule) is horrific. Because we’ll still take a table of 12, but now we’ll put them on three different tables of four, 6 feet apart. And that doesn’t really work well for us. It’s tough in our type of restaurant.”
Fukuburger co-owner Colin Fukunaga believes the restrictions demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the role restaurants play in the spread of COVID.
“I think the restaurant industry has been deemed, unfairly, as a superspreader of the virus, which I feel is now being proven incorrect,” he said. “Because in California the numbers are going up while the restaurants have been closed. So that kind of dispels that myth.”
Moreover, Blau said, extending restrictions on restaurants, without providing more assistance, could be devastating to small businesses.
“It is utterly absurd what has been inflicted on our particular segment of the industry, without any talk of rent abatement, without any talk of business interruption insurance, without any talk of government subsidy,” she said. “Not addressing any of these things, not addressing a bailout specific to the hospitality industry, I think is absolutely egregious at this point. Every day we’re seeing, both locally and nationally, restaurant owners closing their doors forever. These are people who have put everything into these restaurants, and they’re gone for good.”