Tensions about the state of California’s ban in the Southern California region on outdoor dining are reaching a boiling point, with some restaurant owners openly defying the regulation they see as unfair and hypocritical.Dave Foldes, who owns Cronies Sports Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, is one of them. Cronies’ Agoura Hills location is still serving customers at its outdoor patio space.“If we (closed), we would have to lay people off,” Foldes explained to the Business Journal. “We chose not to do that because of the holidays … so we just went against the rule, which we don’t even think is constitutional.”He said operating with only takeout sales this spring “was a disaster for our business. We lost so much money.”Even with outdoor dining, Foldes said, Cronies loses between $5,000 and $10,000 every month as rent and utility payments pile up. Foldes said it would be more fiscally responsible to close entirely for a few weeks or even months rather than keep operating at such losses, but doing so would force employees to find work elsewhere.He said he sees the distribution of a vaccine as a “light at the end of the tunnel,” and a motivating factor to keep the restaurant open and operating despite the financial losses.
He added his flouting of the rules has drawn visits from enforcers.“We get fined every day,” he said. “I get visits from all the agencies.”Cronies has amassed more than $5,000 in fines for being out of compliance. Foldes said he isn’t going to pay immediately and is instead waiting to see if the regulatory landscape changes as a result of widespread backlash from other businesses.“It’s really a fight for all small businesses and their employees. These measures, which have no science to back them, are detrimental and closing businesses left and right,” he said. “How come you can go to the Home Depot and buy a leaf blower or some Christmas decorations but you can’t eat outside? … This is the real reason (we’re staying open): the unfairness.”Foldes isn’t the only restaurant owner who sees the outdoor dining restriction as hypocritical.Angela Marsden, who owns Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill in Sherman Oaks, went viral this week after posting a short video showing a catered film crew setting up under canopy tents less than 100 feet from her shuttered restaurant.“I’m losing everything … and they set up a movie company right next to my outdoor patio. And people wonder why I’m protesting,” Marsden said through tears in the video. “We cannot survive. My staff cannot survive.”She said seeing the film crew – which would’ve had to receive approval from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti – felt like “a slap in my face.”Since publishing the video, Marsden has received $150,000 in donations to a GoFundMe page for the restaurant and its payroll, according to TMZ.Threatening restaurant workers’ employment during the busy holiday season has emerged as a unifying factor in complaints to regulators.A research note published Monday by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. said as many as 185,000 restaurant and food service industry jobs were cut from payrolls during the county’s initial Safer-at-Home Order in March and April. About 88,800 of those jobs have been added back to payrolls since restaurants were permitted to resume on-site operations over the summer.The note said the new outdoor dining regulation could stymie that recovery and bring the industry back to around 50 percent employment – where it was in April.“The 88,800 jobs recovered from May through October are those that stand to be the most vulnerable with the suspension of on-site outdoor dining options in Los Angeles County over the holidays,” the note said.LAEDC did not take a position in support of or against the regulation, and added “public officials are engaged in a balancing act between what’s best for businesses, jobs and the local economy and what’s best for public health.”