Local bars forced to adjust to new county curfew

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SOLANA BEACH, Calif. – Some San Diego-area bars and restaurants are moving operations outdoors in hopes of making up anticipated lost revenue from a county health order which imposes upon them a daily 10 p.m. curfew.

Matt Weaver, owner of the Saddle Bar in Solana Beach.

Matt Weaver, owner of the Saddle Bar in Solana Beach, called the new guidelines “a tremendous burden.” He said the establishment typically generates roughly 70 percent of its revenue after 10 p.m., something that no longer will be possible for the foreseeable future as county officials ordered the curfew to stem the rising tide of local COVID-19 cases.

After being closed for nearly three months, the popular late-night watering hole considers itself one of the lucky ones, sharing a kitchen with a restaurant neighbor to stay afloat.

But Weaver said he’s angry because he feels Saddle Bar is doing everything it can to keep people safe ⁠— while bringing home only about 30 percent of what it otherwise would.

“For the county to just come in and setting this Band-Aid countywide without going jurisdiction by jurisdiction or case-by-case just seems tremendously unfair since it’s not a problem here, and we’re doing all the right things,” he said.

Under the new guidelines for restaurants, a patron ordering alcohol also must order food and consume it sitting down. The establishment’s doors are to close at 10 p.m. with remaining customers out by 11 p.m. They’re then not able to reopen until at least 5 a.m. the following day after a cleaning.

“We’re just barely recovering from last time and now to go through it again?” Weaver said. “We think it’s going to be daunting and really unfair.”

Up and down the coast, it is a similar story for other establishments with eateries building outdoor seating to allow for additional business. But the future for local industries could be murky as county officials announced Wednesday 474 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths — in addition to 13 community outbreaks in the past week, including six traced to restaurants or bars.

If current numbers hold, county Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said the county could be forced to restrict dine-in seating and other indoor business activities by early next week.

For now, The Saddle is taking parking spaces out front of its establishment and hopes to be ready for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“We’ve got Astroturf, fencing and umbrellas and tables and chairs,” Weaver said. “Hopefully we get a little bit of our summer back. We’re hoping it’ll be a boost — something exciting for us during these dark times.”

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