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Chef Brian Malarkey temporarily shuts down restaurants in San Diego and Orange counties

Chef Brian Malarkey (right) with partner Chris Puffer announced Sunday they were temporarily shutting down all their restaurants in San Diego and Orange counties.
(Courtesy photo )

In a statement, the chef said: ‘Until we can better understand this virus, we want to prioritize the health and well-being of this city we love’

Chef Brian Malarkey and his partner Chris Puffer on Sunday morning announced that they are temporarily closing all of their restaurants in San Diego and Orange counties, making them among the first high-profile dining establishments to shut down because of coronavirus concerns.

The closures, effectively immediately, will affect restaurants run by the hospitality group Puffer Malarkey Collective, which includes Herb & Wood, Herb & Eatery, Animae, NIMA Cafe, Herb & Sea, Green Acre Campus Pointe, Green Acre Nautilus, Farmer & The Seahorse, Wood Yu and Herb & Ranch.

“On behalf of our staff and community and in the interest of keeping our city safe, we are temporarily suspending our operations,” Malarkey, one of San Diego’s most prominent chefs, said Sunday morning via a PR rep. “Until we can better understand this virus, we want to prioritize the health and well-being of this city we love, and we hope by taking these proactive measures that we are doing our small part to stop the spread. We’re looking forward to better days as soon as possible, and we’ll be back better and stronger than ever before. Thank you for your support, San Diego, we love you.”

The announcement comes just days after a national emergency declaration by President Donald Trump, unleashing a domino effect that has put many industries — including restaurants — in peril.

Also closed due to the COVID-19 and its impact on the local economy is Donovan’s Steak & Chop House in the Gaslamp Quarter. On its Facebook page Saturday, company officials posted a brief note saying the restaurant would close after dinner service that evening.

“In the wake of San Diego’s current tourism drop, convention cancellations, social distancing recommendations and employee policies, recalibration is imminent for the hospitality industry, as a whole. Unfortunately, the hit taken in regards to COVID-19 may very well be the final blow for many within the industry. We will update you, as we move forward,” the post read.

On Friday, Las Vegas-based Clique Hospitality announced that it was closing its local establishment, Oxford Social Club at the Pendry Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, making it one of the first local nightlife establishments to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a top hospitality leader in San Diego, Clique Hospitality always puts our patrons and employee health, safety and well-being first and as our top priority,” Andy Masi, founder and owner of Clique Hospitality, said in a statement. “Due to the current world situation and growing concern for COVID-19 and in response to recent authoritative announcements, Oxford Social Club will be closed for nightlife operations this weekend and will reevaluate the situation in the days to follow.”

In Seattle, the epicenter of America’s coronavirus crisis, more than 50 restaurants closed in a two-week period, some of them permanently, according to the Seattle Times. Its most famous chef, Tom Douglas, announced on Wednesday the closure of a dozen of his restaurants for at least two months. Business was down by as much as 90 percent, the Seattle Times quoted his management as saying, adding that the celebrated chef would not have the ability to pay his staff after March 15.

Malarkey, who came to fame as a finalist on season 3 of the Bravo network competition series “Top Chef,” will be among the former contestants returning for the 17th season, “Top Chef: All Stars,” which premieres Thursday, March 19.

On Sunday morning, Malarkey posted on Instagram (@brianmalarkey): “Sending all the food home with our incredible staff! Keep Your Spirit UP! Stay Strong! Stay Healthy! Be Safe! Believe & Hope & Pray that this madness”

Malarkey and Puffer said in a joint email that they’re still working out the details on whether employees will be paid, furloughed or some other arrangement.

“This pandemic is an unprecedented situation for everyone, and we are working to outline a plan regarding payroll and staff and hope to have more clarity in the next several days,” the email said. “At this time the most important thing is the safety of our employees and patrons, and the San Diego community. We are sending our staff home with care packages of food and telling them to take this time off to stay home and stay safe with their families and loved ones.”

The released statement from The Puffer Malarkey Collective is below:

Friends & Neighbors,

Our mission has always been to provide a happy and healthy place for our community and our team. Given the rapidly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, we’ve decided to temporarily close all our locations, effective Sunday, March 15.

While we wait to reopen, we’re encouraging our staff to spend time at home and with loved ones. We hope you’re able to as well.

We know we’ve said it before but we’ll say it again - we’ll weather this storm, together. We will be back stronger and better than ever. We’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and working together to get this crisis under control and ultimately come out ahead.

Sincerely,

Chris Puffer & Brian Malarkey

Staff writer Pam Kragen contributed to this report.

Updates:

1:06 PM, Mar. 15, 2020: This has been updated to include a comment by Chef Brian Malarkey on Instagram. It was also updated to include information on the closure of Donovan’s Steak & Chop House.


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