“We Don’t Know What To Do”: San Jose Restaurants Prepare To Close Personal Dining

Surrounded by patio heaters and tables with guests enjoying Mexican food, a three-piece mariachi band played under the tent roof in front of Mendoza’s Taqueria in San Jose on Sunday – the last day of the year to accommodate restaurants among the youngest restaurants in Santa Clara County could health order.

“I will miss seeing them play here,” said owner Jose Luis Perez in Spanish. “Next Monday, many customers will be gone because there is no longer an atmosphere that accompanies the meal.”

Perez built a tent roof as wide as the East Side restaurant itself when San Jose legislators decided in May to stop restaurants and other businesses that were closed due to COVID-19 due to the COVID-19 order from operating in the Allow outdoors.

Graffiti was sprayed on the tent roof of Mendoza’s Taqueria. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Together with the mariachi band, Perez allowed a vendor to sell toys, books, and stuffed animals in the tent to families with children, many of whom hunted each other in the area.

Now indoor and outdoor eating must stop at least by January 4th. This is part of a new Shelter-in-Place order starting at 10:00 PM on Sunday.

“That (outdoor setup) was very expensive, it was over $ 5,000,” said Perez. “Now we won’t do anything.”

He said he was removing the tarpaulin from the frame of the canopy during the embargo so people don’t spray graffiti on it as the tarpaulin has been tagged twice in the past few weeks.

The biggest setback he’s suffered from the new restrictions is reducing his five employees to just two.

Although Mendoza’s taqueria will be open for takeout orders, Perez said it wouldn’t be enough to keep its business going for long.

“Some will come and go – some won’t, they don’t like to eat it at home. They like to eat the food right now, as hot as they can get it, ”he said. “I can definitely understand taking precautions during the pandemic, but that’s exactly what we did. We shouldn’t be asked to close. “

Santa Clara County’s health officials joined four other counties on Dec. 4 to expedite a stay at home order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom for regions whose ICU capacity falls below 15%.

Although Santa Clara County’s intensive care unit capacity is 17% as of December 5, health officer Dr. Sara Cody took steps to contain an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases and hospital stays. She joined the counties of San Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin and Alameda.

As part of the order, hairdressers, nail salons, personal care services, cinemas, museums, bars and wineries must close. It starts on December 6th at 10pm through January 4th. Restaurants can only be opened for deliveries and take-away.

As of December 5, Santa Clara County has reported 38,388 COVID-19 cases and 503 deaths.

Jose Guitron, owner of La Perla Taqueria in east San Jose, said the impact of the new health regime means he will have to lay off three employees. He only has six employees now.

“The restaurant barely came through when we opened outside,” he said in Spanish. “People rarely come to take away. When customers come by, I offer them the tables outside.”

Guitron said he spent around $ 2,000 building the outdoor seating area – an enclosed canopy tent surrounded by a white picket fence with eight tables.

Jose Guitron, owner of La Perla Taqueria, said he spent about $ 2,000 on outdoor seating at his San Jose restaurant. Photo by Vicente Vera.

The tent kept La Perla Taqueria in business all fall, he said, but after 28 years in business it could not survive without financial support.

“I applied for federal loans and sought assistance from the county, but it really doesn’t seem like they care,” Guitron said. “Except when it comes to the imposition of fines. Everything is going bad, the county went wrong by not offering us any help. We don’t know what to do. “

Health officials say dining in person at Silicon Valley restaurants has been inevitable as falls skyrocket in South Bay.

“We feel that we have no choice but to act and act now,” said Cody at a news conference on Friday. “We understand that these restrictions will present very difficult economic challenges and we want to lift these restrictions as soon as possible.”

In downtown Willow Glen, many restaurants had adapted to outdoor seating, but Antonio Carmona, owner of John’s of Willow Glen, said his Greek restaurant hadn’t seen a significant increase in customers.

Prior to the December 4 decision to adopt the state’s new ordinance, restaurants in Santa Clara County were allowed limited outdoor dining or takeout and delivery. No indoor food was allowed.

“Now people don’t even feel comfortable eating outside. I mean, it’s cold and it looks like it’s raining, ”he said. “We got 25% of our customers back, but on Monday it might be 5% or 10%.”

Carmona said he was most frustrated with laying off employees, many of whom had already worked fewer hours. He had to close the gap in which the daily employees no longer have time.

“I feel bad for her. They take hours and they have to work, but I have to do some things myself because I can’t afford to pay anyone else, ”he said. “I don’t know how to deal with it, but I know I’ll do my best.”

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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