Which restaurants and stores are open today in San Diego? A peek into the reopening
San Diego restaurants and shops are allowed to fully reopen today to in-person patrons. But how did the day go?
The doors of Crest Café in Hillcrest were thrown open barely an hour after the sun rose Thursday morning, starting day one of San Diego County’s return to dine-in restaurants with a quiet trickle of guests.
The phones rang constantly from customers placing pick-up orders, but by 11 a.m., waitress Fabiola Flores had only served two dine-in guests. The first, a regular customer who, before the pandemic, enjoyed breakfast seven days a week at Crest Café, arrived first thing in the morning. She sat in a booth and ordered her usual: eggs over-medium with a side of tomato and toast.
The second guest strolled in by 10:30. Mark Crawford, 29, is an emergency room nurse at Scripps Mercy. He caught COVID-19 in March with mild symptoms of fever and achy joints for about 10 days. Today was his first dine-in meal in months. Masked and feeling confident with presumed immunity, he ordered a pancake sampler.
“It just feels good to be out,” Crawford said. “It feels like there is a sense of normalcy.”
The quiet start could be due to residents caught off guard by the news, or perhaps some hesitancy to step out of doors just yet. San Diego County’s decision to reopen some businesses has moved quickly, starting Monday with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that most California counties would meet new requirements for an accelerated reopen.
More than two-thirds of Southern California counties have received the green light to move deeper into Stage 2, including Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.
San Diego earned state approval late Wednesday to step into Stage 2 of reopening, which would allow retail shopping and restaurants to cater to in-person patrons while abiding by strict guidelines.
Dining in likely carries a hint of the old normal: plastic booths and ceramic mugs. There aren’t any barriers greeting you at a restaurant’s entrance. But there are signals all over that times have changed, and the dining experience may not be what you remember.
Surfaces sit bare at Crest Café, absent of laminated menus, salt and pepper shakers, or sugar packets that could carry germs. Tables have been removed from the dining room, and others have chairs stacked on top to prevent guests from gathering too closely. Flores is masked at all times, bustling to sanitize every spot a customer has visited.
Which restaurants opened Thursday?
While many restaurateurs are taking some time to reopen, others jumped at the opportunity to serve guests first thing Thursday. Mike Hess Brewing immediately opened four of its locations — Imperial Beach, North Park, Ocean Beach and Walnut Creek — with specials on food and drinks. STP Bar-N-Grill in Clairemont Mesa did the same, joining a growing collection of local restaurants advertising their open doors on social media Thursday morning.
David Curiel scrambled last night to prepare for dine-in service today at two of his restaurants: Saffron and Karina’s Ceviches in Mission Hills.
The fast-casual restaurants don’t employ wait staff, but instead have customers order at the counter and wait for food to be delivered to their tables. Apart from cooks, cashiers and food runners, the restaurants now have “disinfectors” on staff — people whose sole responsibility is to disinfect dining areas when customers are done eating.
At Karina’s, Dory Freiberg sat at the outdoor dining area with his coworkers Thursday at lunch. Freiberg didn’t know that dine-in service was allowed until he noticed a sign outside Karina’s. He planned to order to-go and eat from the back of a pickup truck. When asked to name the last local restaurant he visited, Freiberg paused.
“I don’t even remember,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was going to be the last one.”
Dining in soon? Restaurants might have new rules for you
Dining in could be a bit less personal than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with counter service becoming even more common than years past.
“I strongly believe the server position is going to disappear,” said John Carlo “J.C.” Ferraiuolo, the general manager of Oceanside’s counter-service pizza spot Blade 1936. “People will get used to ordering more of their food and beverages at the counter, and it will save labor costs to help cover some of the other expenses of precautions to stop the novel coronavirus.”
For guests who venture into Blade 1936 without proper protective gear, masks will be provided, Ferraiuolo said. The masks can be removed to eat and drink, but patrons will have to put them back on if they get up and walk anywhere, such as to the bar or restroom.
Speaking of restrooms, excusing yourself from the table might also be a chore in the days of COVID-19. At Savoie in Chula Vista, customers must ask staff permission to stand up from their tables to visit the bathrooms.
“It’s necessary,” said Curiel, the owner of Savoie. “We are fortunate to be allowed to have dine-in service back so we have to be responsible if we want to continue to have this privilege.”
Which San Diego stores are open Thursday?
The retail scene Thursday was experiencing a similar trickle of customers. As of mid-morning Thursday, Fashion Valley’s parking garages had 5,431 empty stalls. Entrances were blocked off with chains and yellow caution tape. Most major shopping malls in San Diego are still closed, according to mall operators, including Simon’s Fashion Valley and all of Westfield’s malls. Updates to hours are coming shortly, staffers said, but no official word is out on when shoppers can browse in-person.
In La Mesa, family-owned shopping mall Grossmont Center was quick to set its tenants up for a full reopen. Bigger tenants such as Target and Walmart have remained open throughout the pandemic, but now its remaining shops are beginning to open, including Macy’s.
The mall has posted “Welcome Back” signage around the outdoor shopping center, along with rules and guidelines for browsing customers. The rules are what you’d expect. Wear masks, keep 6 feet of distance between other shoppers and don’t come out to shop if you’re sick, among other suggestions.
A minority of the more than 100 stores were open at Grossmont Center. Among a handful of shoppers was Point Loma resident Sienna Droback, who said she, her boyfriend and their friend had purchased some succulent plants at Modern Market, a gift shop in the mall. The trio had become “plant parents” during the pandemic to give them something to do at home.
“Walmart has plants, too, but we wanted to support a smaller business so we went to Modern Market,” Droback said.
Doug Jordan, who co-owns Java Junction boutique and coffee shop in Grossmont with his wife, said they opened the shop and a similar store they own in Coronado, Treasures from the Heart, on Thursday.
He said customers had been respecting social distancing rules and seemed happy to shop in the store.
“Every customer that I see is happy that we’re open,” Jordan said. “They want to get back to normal. They’re tired of this thing (the pandemic and public health orders) and they think now it’s getting ridiculous. They’re just happy.”
One Paseo, Carmel Valley’s retail and restaurant center, also welcomed shoppers Thursday for browsing, although not all stores are fully reopened. It’s up to each individual retailer to decide when to open their doors.
Lindsey Lamoureux, owner of clothing retailer West of Camden, said her store was open Thursday. She’s been monitoring local and state rules for weeks, and had retrained her staff and filled out San Diego County’s required paperwork the moment she was allowed to reopen.
Her store is set up, employees are masked, and they are prepared for the coming foot traffic this holiday weekend. She’s not quite sure what to expect from customers, though.
“Everybody is different,” Lamoureux said. “It’s like relearning to walk after you’ve been stuck in bed for months ... it would take a crystal ball to know how many people will come out.”
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