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Off Menu: This is what it’s like for a restaurant to close. And open. And close again.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the balance sheets of all types of businesses this year, but perhaps none so seriously as small, independent restaurants. The financial insecurity and lack of federal aid has been made worse by inconsistent messaging and selective enforcement of regulations on a local level.

This episode of “Off Menu” focuses on Seafood Cove 2 in Westminster, one restaurant that has felt the whipsaw back-and-forth of pandemic regulations. Siblings Eddie and Iris Lai run the day-to-day of the family-owned dim sum place and have struggled to earn enough money to stay afloat while simultaneously prioritizing the safety of guests and employees.

The Food video team first visited Seafood Cove 2 back in May, after the first stay-at-home order, while it was preparing to reopen. We checked in periodically over the course of the next seven months to chronicle the thoughts, worries and concerns of restaurant owners as they got ready to welcome customers for dine-in.

The opening turned out to be short-lived. In December, a regional stay-at-home order was enacted once more, forcing restaurants back to takeout- and delivery-only, and leaving their financial futures uncertain.

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