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Food

L.A. restaurant shutdown extended to April 19, all but guaranteeing the end for many businesses

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A passerby in front of Miro in downtown Los Angeles on Friday. The Italian restaurant decided to close during the mandatory shutdown instead of doing takeout and delivery.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest citywide mandate imposes an even stricter set of restrictions on daily life in Los Angeles than the one issued Sunday night — and it almost certainly means the end of business for good for many restaurants and bars.

Thursday evening’s announcement that the city would be placed under a “Safer at Home” ordinance — essentially, a modified version of the “shelter-in-place” guidelines already in effect in the Bay Area — extended the date that restaurants are prohibited from allowing diners to eat in: The new restrictions are in place through April 19, from an original order of March 31, although the city said it could shorten or lengthen the timeframe.

Although Angelenos are allowed to go to “essential businesses, such as grocery stores, and to pick up takeout food at restaurants,” that 19-day extension will suffocate restaurants and other food-service businesses, depriving them of revenue essential to covering fixed costs such as rent and health insurance.

Droves of restaurant and bar workers have already been laid off since Sunday, and restaurant owners say they anticipate letting more employees go in the coming days. A 2017 L.A. County Economic Development Corp. report counted 355,540 jobs in “food service and drinking places,” more than any other private sector industry.

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Garcetti’s mandate was followed by one by Governor Gavin Newsom ordering all Californians to stay home. People will still be able to visit takeout and delivery restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, gas stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, banks and laundromats, and can leave their homes to care for a relative or a friend or seek healthcare services. No time frame was set for when the mandatory state order would end.

This week, as chefs struggled to transition their businesses to survive only on revenue from takeout and delivery, many warned that although they might be able to hold on until the end of the month, they wouldn’t be able to be financially viable beyond that.

“Takeout is not going to be enough to cover staff and rent, no way. It’s going to be a huge stretch just to manage finances so we can make it that two weeks,” Charles Olalia, chef-owner of Ma’am Sir in Silver Lake, said on Sunday night. “If it goes much longer than that, I don’t know if we can reopen.”

Neither the city nor the county has addressed any specific relief efforts being made for restaurant owners or workers, despite petitions, fundraisers and other pleas for support. Most owners said they do not have the wherewithal to keep their dining rooms and bars shuttered that long without immediate and direct financial assistance.

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“The money from takeout and delivery isn’t enough to cover rent, let alone labor and everything else,” said Chase Valencia, chef and co-owner of Lasa in Chinatown. “The city thrust this on us with no safety net.”

Minutes after Thursday’s order was announced, Mozzaplex chef Nancy Silverton — who was in the middle of distributing free meals and essential supplies to recently laid-off restaurant workers — said she saw it coming. All week, chefs around the city knew the original March 31 date “was just a Band-Aid, that was just a baby step” to help ease owners into a grim new reality.

“So saying it’s through mid-April does not come as a surprise,” she said. “It just makes it more painful.”

Times staff writers Jenn Harris and Garrett Snyder contributed to this report.


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