On Fulton Street in Downtown Fresno, you could hear the chant of people and small business owners demanding to remain at 25% of indoor dining.
Right outside the Fresno County Department of Health this past Saturday, a rally took place hosted by the creators of a Facebook group called ‘Open Central California,’ which currently has over 20 thousand members.
At least 40 California counties are in the purple tier reverting restaurants back to outdoor-only dining.
“A few days ago, we got together and said, let’s get in front of the County’s Health Department because they are the ones that have the data that they share with the state. We are asking David Pomaville and Dr. Vohra to show us the data that small businesses are the problem,” says Manny Perales, owner of Yosemite Falls restaurants.
Perales stood at the podium, frustrated with being shut down for the third time. He suggested that the big box companies are putting more people at risk than restaurants having a 25% capacity for indoor dining.
“We need to go to Sacramento and go in front of Gavin Newsome’s home or in front of the state capital and bring a hundred-thousand people with us,” says Perales.
Perales had to lay off about 200 employees when the first shutdown took place. He is now faced with difficult decisions to continue outside dining in the 45-degree weather.
“We have a tough decision to make because the state holds the liquor license over our head and that’s what our biggest concern is. If we lose our liquor license, then we are doomed,” says Perales.
Just like Perales, other business owners are feeling the same pressure. House of Juju forfeited their liquor license in order to continue having 25% capacity for indoor dining.
“There is a misconception about business owners…For someone who goes to work and receives a paycheck, really doesn’t understand the checks and balances of a business,” says Julie Glenn, Owner of On The Edge, Papa’s Place, and House of Juju.
While at the podium, Glenn shared data stating that about 81 percent of people in the city of Clovis are employed by small businesses.
Glenn and a couple of other business owners had a conference call with the Director of Environmental Health David Pomavilla and Interim Fresno County Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra.
“It ignited the warrior in me. On Monday morning, I was actually in tears, exhausted from this battle and ready to throw in the towel. I can’t do that because my employees need this job. So we are going to fight,” says Glenn.
Glenn described her conference call with county health officials as disappointing and some comments made to her were demeaning.
“The path forward is too difficult; I see no way for any restaurant to make it after what happened to L.A. County,” says Lewis Everk, former business owner.
On Monday morning, Everk announced on Facebook that he would be shutting down all five of his business, including The Luxe and Vyxn.
One of his three businesses, Jugo: Salad and Juice bars, never even had the chance to open its doors.
The Vyxn was only open for three months before the shutdown. He will not be able to recuperate the thousands of dollars he had invested in the restaurant.
“To close up shop, there is no guarantee at 25%. There is no guarantee outdoors. I’m paying a liquor license at full cost, yet I’m not being able to use it,” says Everk.
Everk said that he sees no path forward to a business model here in California. There is no light at the end of the tunnel if he continues with his businesses.
“With California having the strictest guidelines out of the entire country, it is the reason why I’m jumping on a plane and going to Arizona, I’m going to Texas, and I’m going to other states, like Tennessee that has far better ways of prospering in business,” said Everk.
Restaurants that defy the re-instated COVID-19 ordinance will face fines from the state and risk the possibility of losing their liquor license.
In a press briefing on November 20, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims made an important announcement regarding indoor dining and the California curfew set from 10 p.m. – 5 a.m.
“The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office will not be out enforcing this limited closure order,” said Sheriff Mims.
The Sheriff’s office will focus on more pressing matters like car burglary, stopping narcotics trafficking, and other criminal activities, rather than forcing businesses to shut down.