Applicants line up for new restaurant openings

COSTA MESA — As President Barack Obama on Monday accused Senate Republicans of blocking legislation that would extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans, more than 200 hopeful — and some desperate — job seekers showed up for open interview sessions for 100 positions at a new restaurant in Costa Mesa.

Seasons 52, a restaurant with seasonal menus, fresh food and top-notch wine, opens Aug. 30 at the Clubhouse restaurant's former site in South Coast Plaza.

The restaurant began conducting walk-in interviews Monday. For the next three weeks on Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., job seekers can fill out an application and interview with management for culinary and service positions.

By 1 p.m. Monday, there were already more than 160 applicants. The first applicant arrived at 7:45 a.m., said spokeswoman Marguarite Clark.

"I'll take anything," said Beau Cook, 29, of Costa Mesa, when asked which position he applied for Monday morning.

Cook, who knew several other awaiting applicants sitting inside the restaurant at its brand-new polished wood tables, said that everyone was "just motivated."

"We want to work and make some money like anyone else," Cook said.

Seasons 52 is owned by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants, whose dining brands also include Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Once hired, Seasons 52 employees can become eligible for health care, life insurance, stock options and even pet insurance.

"We don't usually have a lot of turnover in our restaurants," Seasons 52 President Stephen Judge said. "We look for people with a passion for service and who just want to be here to take care of the guests."

Many who showed up didn't necessarily have a pronounced passion for serving, or even prior food industry experience, but said they were willing to find work wherever was hiring in a tough economy.

"I have never worked for a restaurant before," said Yona Infante, 46, of Costa Mesa. "But, for this job, I think I can learn."

Unable to find a job for more than a year, Infante has been struggling to survive off the small amount of money she pulls in babysitting, she said.

"Too many people don't have jobs," Infante said.

The unemployment rate in Orange County was above 9% in May this year, according to data from the California Employment Development Department.

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