Representatives from local hotels, bars and restaurants marched down Highway 1 on Wednesday to protest state and county restrictions forbidding outdoor dining under the stay-at-home order.
Pacifica Brewery owners Helen Nasser-Elddin and Sylvain Montassier organized the protest march, which attracted about 40 people, including employees, business owners and managers.
They say they improved their large outdoor seating area in the back with heat lamps at a cost of about $30,000 and spaced tables appropriately six feet apart from other diners. Nasser-Elddin said their takeout business alone is only one-tenth what is necessary to sustain the business. She laid off almost all employees, keeping a skeleton crew for take-out orders. She said she was especially upset to learn her business will not qualify for a federal relief grant that was available for other business because Pacifica Brewery has been open less than a year.
“We seek justice,” she said.
Nasser-Elddin said the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control threatened to take away her business’ liquor license if they didn’t comply with the new orders.
“The sacrifice is on us. We are following the guidelines,” she said.
They asked for all businesses to be treated the same in terms of capacity allowed.
“All businesses are suffering. We are all in the same boat,” Montassier said. “There is not enough consistency. It’s all or nothing. There is a big discrepancy for the restaurant business. We are for social distancing.”
Chuck Gust, the owner of Nick’s Restaurant, said he, too, spent about $20,000 to create an area for outdoor dining with heat lamps and patron distancing.
“From 75 employees we are down to 12. I don’t have much faith in the state to be a leader. They are not being a good parent,” he said.
Dillon Patel, owner and manager of the Sea Breeze Motel next to Nick’s Restaurant, said with Nick’s closed, his business is down to 10 percent of normal capacity.
“This is hurting all of Rockaway. There are lots of cancellations. Let the restaurants open,” he said.
Kim Lerohl, the owner of Longboard’s Margarita Bar, put in outdoor seating but has not been able to put customers there under the latest restrictions. Lerohl said she been in business 10 years and this is the biggest challenge she faces. The federal grant to her business will not go far enough, she said.
“We are in debt. We need help from City Council and the county Board of Supervisors to help us survive,” she said.
Winter’s Tavern built a beer garden in the parking lot to serve people and to hear music, but that, too, sits empty right now.