Pasadena Restaurants Teetering in COVID-19 Balance

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I did this for the community and we gotta be positive in life,” said Calogero Drago, owner of the fine dining establishment Celestino Ristorante at 141 S. Lake Ave. in Pasadena, who said he had never done “to go” orders prior to the stay-at-home mandate.It was either adapt or close.“I didn’t do the three course. I just did a nice, beautiful menu,” Drago told Pasadena Now. “Chicken, fish, pasta, special of the day. You have four different types of pasta, you have two risotto, you have a gluten-free, vegan … everything. So we’ll see. We’ll try this new model, hope it’s going to work.”“We gotta look forward because it’s sad, the situation right now, in one minute the world had changed,” Drago added.In late March, Gale Kohl closed Gale’s Restaurant so employees could be with their families.“During the closure, we cleaned, sanitized and disinfected the entire restaurant. We re-opened the restaurant on April 28,” Kohl told Pasadena Now in an email. “I had to think long and hard as to what was the best thing to do. My employees were all feeling good and wanted to return to work. I looked at everything and knew that unless we re-opened in a timely manner, we would probably not be in a financial position to open our doors again. The costs of just shutting the doors is enormous. Most restaurants could not sustain for very long. At this point, I plan to keep going, support my staff and the community. I have been doing that for almost 19 years and I have no plans of closing my doors.”Pasadena’s Economic Development and Technology Committee last week directed the City Manager’s office to report back with specific recommendations as to how restaurants and other businesses can reopen to dine-in customers in the coming weeks while maintaining social distancing and other safety and health protocols.It’s unclear when City Manager Steve Mermell will submit his report to the EDTECH committee but he told members he would try to get them something during as soon as this shortened holiday week.One of the many options the city is considering is allowing restaurants to set up outdoor dining in parking lots, alleyways, on sidewalks and parklets, the area reserved for street parking that extends 8-feet from the curb.“We’ll probably have some nice open air tents that we will hang with chandeliers and make it very inviting,” said Gregg Smith, co-owner of Arroyo Chop House at 536 S. Arroyo Pkwy.“We don’t have the guidelines from the city yet so we don’t really know what the rest of it will look like,” said Smith, who with his brother, Bob, owns three restaurants in Pasadena. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we need to put some plexiglass partitions.”“I bet you’re going to see 35 to 40 percent of the retailers in Pasadena will not reopen.” Smith added. “And the longer this continues, the more casualties in retail we’re gonna see. And I mean all retail, not just restaurants … the survivors are going to be the ones that make the guests feel secure and healthy and safe.”“Business owners are tossing out any idea possible that will give them some opportunity to have a decent chance at bringing their businesses back online and surviving,” said Councilman Andy Wilson, an EDTECH committee member. “If restaurants are only allowed to operate at a small percentage of its capacity, can they even afford to reopen?”“If the public is not confident that they’re going to be safe then the businesses don’t work because they have no customers,” Wilson added. “We need to make sure as we’re opening these, helping these businesses come back online, that we’re doing it in a way that customers can be confident of taking advantage of those businesses and those restaurants and those services, otherwise they’re not going to show up.”In addition to the cost of implementing new safety and health measures, businesses are facing a minimum wage increase in the city of Pasadena to $15 an hour July 1.“I would suggest that the city council consider a 12 month pause on raising the minimum wage to allow the businesses to rebuild themselves and to reassure their customers that they are safe, clean, and happy to welcome them back,” former restaurant owner Robin Salzer told Pasadena Now. “Employees are suffering, businesses are suffering, and we as a city are suffering.”“Everyone’s already struggling and everyone’s already laid off most of their employees,” said Marc Canter, owner of LA’s famous Canter’s Deli, which operates a satellite in Pasadena out of Kitchen United at 55 S. Madison Ave. “So it would just make matters worse right now. I can’t imagine the city would enforce that during this pandemic.” STAFF REPORT First Heatwave Expected Next Week Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Name (required)  Mail (required) (not be published)  Website  48 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. Business News Pasadena Restaurants Teetering in COVID-19 Balance By ARON BENDER Published on Monday, May 25, 2020 | 1:27 pmlast_img read more