SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A popular San Diego restaurant chain has now laid off more than 600 workers and temporarily ceased operations amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Puesto managing partner Eric Adler said the chain made the decision as sales plummeted to less than 5 percent amid takeout-only restrictions.
"We still tried to do some takeout and delivery because our goal is to maintain our staff employed as much as possible," he said. "We tried that for about a month more, but at this point in time there was really no business."
Puesto, with three locations in San Diego County, two in Orange County, and two in the Bay Area, has seen its employee count drop from 650 to just 20 in the pandemic. Adler said breaking the news to the staff is one of the hardest things he's had to do as an employer.
"They want an answer, kind of a timeline," he said. "We just have no idea."
Adler doesn't have a timeline in part because ICU capacity in Southern California remains at zero percent capacity, and the COVID vaccine distribution is only just beginning. He said he would like to see outdoor dining be reinstated, given the safety precautions restaurants are taking and the fact that it is allowed in other parts of the US, including New York City.
Adler said he is concerned that the prolonged shutdown would keep many restaurants from ever reopening.
Additionally, he said plans to open a new Italian restaurant in La Jolla in the first quarter of 2021 have been delayed until at least summer, meaning 100 new jobs will also have to wait.