Restaurants approach holidays with ‘guarded optimism’ as COVID cases surge

Business

SAN DIEGO — Rising concern over the omicron variant in time for the busy holiday season has some restaurants and bars making changes in service and seeing changes in business.

“We are trying to approach things with a guarded optimism,” said Ricardo Zarate Jr, general manager at Valentina in the Encinitas beach community of Leucadia.

For most restaurants and bars, the holiday season is a busy time, one they’re looking forward to after a challenging 2020. Zarate says Valentina had a big influx of reservations as recently as last week.

“Now we are starting to see emails and phone calls that are saying we have to cancel,” he said. “My guests are feeling under the weather and it’s just been so disappointing because we all thought this will be a great holiday.”

Restaurants like Valentina are seeing a shift to erring on the side of caution, but it’s a mixed bag of reaction to the recent spike in the omicron variant.

“If they’re comfortable, they’re going to come. If not, they’re not,” said Herman Shoate, manager at Bub’s in downtown San Diego. “I’m seeing maybe a little bit more people wearing masks.”

At Bub’s, it’s been steady business, especially on game nights. Having indoor and outdoor spaces in addition to continued safety measures has helped boost comfort levels.

“We kept the dividers up,” Shoate said. “No menus, no caddies on the table.”

It’s a similar story at Valentina where staff is back to masking up following the recently reinstated mandate while indoors in California. They say it’s a small step to hopefully avoid closures like some establishments are opting for in other parts of the country like New York City and the Bay Area.

“The fact that we haven’t crossed that bridge yet here in Southern California in San Diego is really a good sign and I hope that continues,” Zarate said.

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