As local restaurants await reopening, Otay Ranch grill owner says it’s ‘definitely too early’

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – San Diego County restaurants were on standby Wednesday for the go-ahead to resume dine-in service after county leaders approved a plan this week that would loosen restrictions on area restaurants and retail shopping.

But one restaurateur in Otay Ranch said he plans to be patient until his shop gets the green light.

“It’s too early — definitely too early,” said Victor Lopez, owner of El Pollo Grill.

Lopez, who owns three locations, said his business has done surprisingly well during the past several months and doesn’t need to rush back.

“There’s restaurants that are hurting way more,” he said. “I’d rather do it right, 100% right. I don’t want to fail … and it backfires because I opened the day of, or week of.”

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved parts of an accelerated Phase 2 reopening plan Tuesday allowing for restaurants to reopen for dining under certain guidelines. They include requiring daily employee temperature scans, maintaining proper social distancing and requiring customers to wear masks when they aren’t seated at tables.

When the approval comes from Gov. Gavin Newsom, restaurants are required to fill out a county reopening plan before opening back up. In addition to following new guidelines, Lopez said he plans to add additional sinks for handwashing outside of restaurant bathrooms.

He also said it may be a challenge to fill some positions, as new health requirements require extra employees at each of his locations.

“Going to have to hire one more person for each location so they can be constantly cleaning handles,” Lopez said.

In his favor, his El Pollo Grill location in Otay Ranch is within an outdoor shopping area. Also included in the accelerated Phase 2 plan are retail stores, now only open for curbside and delivery service.

If approved, the plan potentially could bring more customers from next door to dine with Lopez.

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