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San Diego County restaurant owner fears another shutdown amid growing COVID-19 cases

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-03 19:25:17-04

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) -- San Diego County's rising coronavirus case numbers will determine what can stay open and what must shut down again. The uncertainty is taking both a financial and emotional toll for local restaurant owners.

Open. Close. Open. Close. This isn't the revolving door that welcomes customers into local restaurants, it's the state's rules on indoor dining that is worrying business owners.

"It's devastating thinking that we might have to close again," Charlie's Family Restaurant owner, Suzan Meleka said. "I haven't slept in two nights."

When the quarantine began in mid-March, the 28-year-old Escondido diner had to shut its doors. Meleka said they tried take-out. But as a traditional sit-down diner, it just wasn't for them.

Then came the good news on May 21, 2020. With temperature checks, new cleaning, social distancing protocols in place, Charlie's reopened, and their loyal regulars came back.

"The food is great, the prices are great, the atmosphere is great!" one customer said.

"It's like a family here," said another.

"We were worried that a lot of them might forget about us because we were closed for two and a half months," Meleka said. "So they've just been wonderful. They are glad to be back to some sort of normalcy."

But that normalcy did not last too long for diners in 19 California counties on the state's watch list. On July 1, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom declared that every restaurant in counties surrounding San Diego had to again, stop serving food indoors. So far, San Diego is clear from that list. But Meleka is worried we are next.

"I think if restaurants are following every single protocol, they shouldn't be penalized," Meleka said.

Compared to their large dining hall and banquet room for overflow, Charlie's only has four outdoor tables. This may not be enough capacity for the beloved family diner to muscle through another forced shutdown.

"I keep saying it's the twilight zone because it's just unbelievable," Meleka said.

Meleka hopes everyone follows the state's guidelines so that San Diego County can stay off the state's watch list. She says the goal is for all local restaurants to keep their businesses afloat.