Neighbors pitch in to lend restaurants heaters as they move back outside


SAN DIEGO — Come 12:01 a.m. Saturday, every restaurant in the county will only be allowed to operate outdoors, one of the major setbacks that comes with moving into the state’s most restrictive “purple tier” for COVID-19 health measures.

It’s happened before during the pandemic, but now the weather is colder.

“I grew up in Chicago, so every winter here is a joke,” said George Varnasidis, the owner of Chicago Fire Grill in La Jolla. Coming from a place where it dips below zero, he’s not personally very concerned about spending more time outdoors. But for his customers: It may be a very different story.

And while industrial heating lamps would be a perfect remedy for coaxing customers outdoors, many local businesses are finding that, given the increased demand, heaters are nowhere to be found.

“We tried getting them, ordering them, but they’re out of stock and I was able to get a couple personal ones,” Varnasidis said.

The shortage is affecting countless other restaurants, too. When word of the problem reached Janice Hernandez, a San Diego resident, she turned to the Nextdoor app.

“I noticed my neighbor’s yard had a heater back there and I was like, ‘Why aren’t people volunteering their heaters for the restaurants? They don’t have to give it to them but loan them,’” Hernandez told FOX 5.

So she posted a notice soliciting heater loans for businesses on Wednesday, and Hernandez says the number of people stepping up to the plate has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have already pitched in, and she hopes others will follow suit, helping struggling local businesses keep their tables full and employees paid.

“As we get into the cold they’re going to lose customers because people are wanting to stay home, and they really need the business, they’re hurting right now as it is,” she told FOX 5.

Hernandez is organizing the donations through NextDoor, but you can also reach her via email at

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