Major restaurant owners sound alarm on restrictions

Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 20:00:51-04

SAN DIEGO — Two of San Diego's biggest restaurant groups are sounding the alarm over state Coronavirus regulations.

Owners of the Brigantine Family of Restuarants and the Cohn Restaurant Group say indoor capacity limits aren't sustainable. Currently, a restaurant can only seat 25 percent of its capacity indoors.

“If we stay open and as we enter the fall and winter months, our restaurants cannot survive on 25 percent," said Leslie Cohn, of the Cohn restaurant group.

The Cohn Group spent more than $100,000 creating social distancing in 16 of its restaurants - before the 25 percent capacity limit was instituted. Their employment is now down 40 percent to about 1,200 workers.

“We should be concentrating on positive test percentages, hospital capacity, ICU and PPE availability and of course mask wearing, social distancing and employee screening,” Cohn said.

Her frustrations, echoed by Mike Morton, who heads the Brigantine Family of Restaurants, where employment is off 20 percent to 1,000 workers. Morton said there are now waits every Friday, Saturday and Sunday - due to the capacity restraints.

“Guests are going to get tired of that, and what else is that going to do? It allows us to employ less people due to limited capacity,” Morton said.

The 25 percent cap will last at least another three weeks. Only then may the county become eligible for the next lower tier, which would increase the cap to 50 percent - still a struggle in an industry famous for thin margins.