Restaurant owners happy, hesitant about reopening

Coronavirus

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Many restaurants are reopening their doors to customers after a judge ruled the San Diego County had to lift cease-and-desist orders for a couple of local strip clubs and businesses with restaurant service.

Joe Locricchio, owner of Tony Pepperoni Pizzeria in Escondido, in his restaurant’s dining room on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Many restaurants are reopening after a judge ruled the San Diego County had to lift cease-and-desist orders for a couple of local strip clubs and businesses with restaurant service.

It’s all smiles for Joe Locricchio, owner of Tony Pepperoni Pizzeria in Escondido as well as three other locations in Orange and San Diego counties. Thanks to the ruling, Locricchio’s restaurant was packed with patrons Thursday with TVs blasting the Chargers-Raiders matchup in prime time.

He and his customers were over the moon they’re allowed to reopen based off the ruling.

“We had a bullseye on our back — and ma and pas especially — so yeah I’m really happy,” Locricchio said, adding, “I’d like to meet the judge.”

“We want everything to go back to normal and this feels a lot like normal now,” customer Jeff Mish said. “I don’t like the new normal; I like the old normal.”

Locricchio said the pizzeria already has been fined in the past. As of Thursday, he’s waiting to find out if he’ll be prosecuted for a criminal citation, but the notion doesn’t scare him.

“What scares me is sending my people home again,” he said. “This is a 35-year-old dream and you don’t just use it as a yoyo… open, close, open, close.”

In Chula Vista, Alan Cassell, co-owner of Tavern At The Vogue said he couldn’t believe “strip clubs are saving our livelihood.” After weeks of closing all in-person dining, the tavern reopened Thursday for outdoor eating.

“I feel if people want to take that risk to go out and eat – other people can decide to stay home and not go out and eat. It’s our choice to provide food whether it’s takeout only, or serving it in what we consider a pretty safe environment, following all the COVID restrictions,” Cassell said.

Nearby at Agave Coffee and Café, general manager Erick Salas says outdoor dining was working — until it was banned and business bottomed-out.

He’s happy about lifting restrictions, but remains hesitant about reopening.

“I’ve been talking to a few friends that own restaurants and they’re saying they’re back open. I just hope I’m OK – not going to get in trouble,” Salas said.

Cassell says the demand for outdoor dining is strong and they need it to keep going. “They’ve given us a reprieve and allowed us to operate with restrictions and we’ve got to do it. It’s about survival now,” he told FOX 5.

How long the closures remain lifted will likely be up to further court battles: The state is considered highly likely to appeal the ruling soon.

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