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Carlsbad restaurant owners push back against California's latest COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 6:16 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 21:16:47-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Just days into California's new stay-at-home order, many businesses say this time around they won’t comply with restrictions.

Some restaurant owners tell ABC 10News they’re not doing it out of defiance, but as a way to survive.

“We have to stand up for ourselves. We have to open or else we lose the risk of losing our business entirely,” said Annie Rammel, the owner of Oak + Elixir restaurant in Carlsbad.

Rammel said she spent $7,000 to have a deck built outside of Oak + Elixir on State Street to provide a safe dining option for patrons.

It was going well until she had to shut things down once again this week as COVID-19 cases surged and the state put restrictions on in-person dining were put back in place.

“Closed, open, closed, open,” she said. “A lot of us are not doing well; we’re not doing well, the take out and to-go we’re losing money on that.”

Rammel and a group of small business owners in Carlsbad and Oceanside decided to reopen for in-person dining Friday and take their chances, including several restaurants in the Carlsbad Village.

She said if she stayed closed, her 15 employees would be laid off during an already rough year.

“It’s for our employees to put food on their tables; some of them have children that they have to provide for, the holidays are coming, and I’m just not going to do that,” she said.

Her patio and additional outdoor sidewalk tables were ready for customers on Friday at 4 p.m. Rammel said she expected to seat approximately 100 customers.

Just next door at Caldo Pomodoro, customers were seated outside for lunch Friday.

“We’re basically fighting for our lives, and we’ve been here for 29 years, it’s a family-owned and operated restaurant, it’s not that we’re doing anything wrong, we just want to survive,” said Justin Davis, who works as a server at the restaurant. “If we shut down, we’re pretty much not going to open again. We did the plexiglass, redid our tables, and invested so much money into it, and we don’t see any reason why we should shut down again.”

A Carlsbad Police spokesperson said officers respond to reports of businesses operating outside of the health orders, but the goal is to gain compliance through education.

However, they said willful violations witnessed by officers will be reported to the county for documentation.

“We’re scared to lose our ABC license, which is our liquor license,” said Rammel. “If that happens, the group of us is saying we’re going to push through, we have some attorneys on our side, and they say we have a really good fight because there is no evidence that these spikes are coming from us.”