Pie and Burger is a charming small restaurant in Pasadena that has been serving since 1963. The restaurant specializes in its classic California hamburgers and top-rated pies, and has received various awards in the past years. Due to the pandemic, however, the restaurant has been having to deal with constant changes in regulations. Local restaurants are facing uncertainty and anguish during COVID times and have been impacted dramatically.

“In the beginning, it was very frustrating; first of all, it was just take-out only and I had to let go of workers. Then, for a period of three weeks, we had indoor dining with 50% capacity, and we had to hire workers back. Then in the middle of July, it was shut down completely, and I had to lay off some of the staff,” Michael Osborn, the owner of Pie and Burger since 1972, said.

Food industries have been struggling in keeping up with the pandemic. An overall problem has been struggling with the loss of customers, changes in regulations, and maintaining regular patrons. In addition, outdoor dining workers have been cut down in their shifts due to these constant changes in regulations.

“Everyone wants to get back to indoor dining because we have an iconic restaurant and counter, and a lot of people want to sit here and have the experience. Sitting outside is fine, but in reality, it isn’t the reason why people come here,” Osborn said.

In November, Pasadena City Council allowed restaurants to continue operating outdoor dining. This allowance came despite the L.A. County Health Department order of prohibiting those operations for three weeks due to the rise of COVID.

“I actually think the city has been very helpful. A few weeks ago when L.A. County shut down outdoor dining, the city of Pasadena didn’t, although it did not last very long… the city has been very communicative and aware of the struggles that restaurants are going through, and doing everything to help mitigate restaurants’ problems,” Osborn said.

Although some restaurants have had support from the city for setting up outdoor dining – mostly those located in Old Town on Colorado Boulevard – many other local restaurants have not. Matsuri Japanese Restaurant is a family restaurant that has been a local eatery for the past 18 years, but when COVID hit, it turned them upside down.

“Since we aren’t on the main street, the city would not set up the streets for us, and we had to provide with our own money for our street blockage. We did not have the money for outdoor seating,” co-owner Jyun Tosa said.

The restaurant had to change its restaurant strategies. They continued to do only to-go services and partnered with UberEats and Grubhub.

“Fridays and Saturdays are amazing, and weekdays are just terrible. We are doing our best to survive,” Tosa said.

In other instances, some restaurants have had trouble with outdoor dining due to their local business neighbors. Mely’s Pupuserias on North Lake Avenue was established in 2013 and has been serving Salvadorian and Mexican specialties, specifically pupusas.

“It has been very difficult with the pandemic, especially for me, since I have not had the opportunity of doing outdoor dining because of my neighbor being a beauty salon, which created a problem with aromas emanating from it,” Alicia Cerna, the owner, said.

It is clear that small businesses are particularly struggling during these trying times. However, it is also very evident that their entrepreneurial spirits continue to thrive despite their circumstances.

“We are looking forward to getting back open, as more and more people get the vaccine. I am hopeful that in a couple of months we are going to have customers back inside and start to get more sense of a normal state of affairs,” Osborn said.

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