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Amid COVID-19 shutdown orders, a Kensington sake bar offers dine-in movies

Amid COVID-19 shutdown orders, sake bar and restaurant offers dine-in movies
Posted at 3:56 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 21:03:12-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Kensington sake bar and restaurant is getting creative to survive the latest COVID-19 shutdown orders.

Like for so many businesses, the pandemic has been served up economic pain at Tanuki Sake Bar, where revenues have been cut in half.

The most recent COVID-19 shutdown orders were a gut punch for Kai Ishii’s father, who opened the restaurant more than two years ago.

"Definitely disappointment on his part, and worry for his employees and the business," said Ishii.

With the restaurant being takeout only, Ishii's family can only afford hours for one of their four servers.

"The biggest thing is the uncertainty of what’s next," said Ishii.

What Ishii did do next is inspired partly from fast food.

"Definitely got some inspiration from In-N-Out, when they ask you, 'Do you want to eat in the car or take it home?"" said Ishii.

But he knows the concept of in-car dining would only go so far.

"We wanted to give them something to occupy their attention," said Ishii.

So Ishii bought an 18-foot-tall movie screen and a projector, and set them up in their modest parking lot — just 6 spaces. Last weekend, the sake bar started offering a pop-up Japanese movies and anime to go with dinner.

"We found a way to put audio in the car, so it's a lot more immersive," said Ishii.

Each car can use wireless speakers for sound. The dinner for two and movie costs $75.

Their first screening Saturday was sold out, and so is another screening later this week. Ishii is hoping to show two or three films a week, and its not just about the extra revenue.

"We have a lot of wonderful loyal customers, and we’re hoping the big screen will add to that ... create foot traffic, create buzz with the cars driving by and bring more attention for the restaurant and takeout orders ... We're just hoping to keep the lights on," said Ishii.