California restaurants can reopen, but owners are wary

California is reopening. Kind of. 

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the statewide stay-at-home order, which means restaurants will soon be able to reopen, but in most of California, that will only be for outdoor seating. 

It will vary from county to county, and Southern California remains hard hit by COVID-19 infections. 

For restaurant owners, many of whom have had to close their businesses since November, the shift is welcome. But some are distrustful.

Ann Hsing owns Pasjoli, a French eatery in Santa Monica whose butter-poached lobster has earned rave reviews. She said she’s waiting to hear the specifics of the new guidelines. “I think that will be very telling into whether or not it will actually work for some of us to be open.”

The California Restaurant Association says 30% of restaurants in the state are expected to go out of business in this pandemic. Greg Morena is with the association. He spent Monday night and Tuesday rushing to prepare his restaurant — the Albright in Santa Monica (which claims world-famous clam chowder) — to reopen. 

Among other things, he called his staff to find out: “First and foremost, who’s available? Some people have found other jobs. Some people have moved out of state.”

Morena said he hopes to reopen by early February. Not all restaurant owners are that excited. With Southern California still in the grip of COVID-19, many wonder how long the reopening will last. Lien Ta already lost one of her restaurants — Here’s Looking at You — to the pandemic. She still has another, All Day Baby, with its beloved biscuit sandwiches. When it comes to reopening outdoors, she said, “we’re all exhausted, and it’s difficult to make these kinds of decisions when we don’t even learn about them ahead of time.”

So for now, she’s going to put a few tables outside for self-service. She’s not getting her hopes up, just yet.

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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