Restaurant owners and workers across the Bay Area are contending with a new reality brought on by local recommendations around COVID-19 containment.
Last week, they braced for fewer customers, fewer shifts and reduced tips. And in the coming week, they'll need to re-adjust once more as governor Gavin Newsom called for the closure of all bars, wineries and breweries on Sunday. The governor also directed that restaurants limit their occupancy to 50% in order to promote social distancing and curb new infections.
As inherently social, public-facing businesses, restaurants and bars stand to be impacted heavily by the economic repercussions of COVID-19's spread. The majority of their hourly workers are not protected by sick leave and other benefits. County and city-wide policies are also specifying Newsom’s directives with their own further restrictions, with Los Angeles limiting restaurants to take-out only.
Last Thursday at Anula’s Cafe, a downtown Oakland breakfast and lunch favorite, owner and chef Anula Edirisinghe served up her salmon curry, a daily special from her Sri Lankan and West Indian menu. Inside of the bite-sized cafe, Edirisinghe employs one other person besides herself, and her daughter occasionally comes by the cafe to help as well. She said she had a particularly slow day last Tuesday and was hoping Thursday wouldn’t bring more of the same. “I usually make a day like four to five hundred, but that day [I made] like a hundred dollars,” she said. “It’s nothing.”
Though Anula’s Cafe is mostly takeout, Edirisinghe will undoubtedly feel the ebbs and flows of her business, as she also pays rent at a commissary kitchen where the food is prepared. The chef remains optimistic—although less so about the prospect of the city of Oakland helping small business owners like herself. “You have to support small business. You have to support like a low income people, you know? And they only think about the stock market,” she said.