COVID-19 harming small business in Laguna Beach

(Slice Pizza and Beer/Facebook)

Since the coronavirus outbreak, restaurant owner Cary Redfearn has been forced to lay off more than 75% of his staff at Slice Pizza and Beer in Laguna Beach. The recently enacted California lockdown has caused sales to suffer majorly since the small corner restaurant can only accept takeout and delivery orders. For now, the shelter in place mandate presented by Gov. Gavin Newsom has no clear end date, forcing the restaurant’s staff into uncertainty as well as reduced earnings. 

The shop still had some business before the lock down and all staffers remained scheduled at their regular times. However, head manager Danielle Ault requested extra precautions be taken. 

The parmesan and pepper shakers were removed from tables and instead placed into take out containers that could be requested by customers, for example. Staff were also asked to increase the number of times a day heavy use items such as tables and the self-serve beer wall handles were sanitized. 

“I honestly can’t say too much about how it is to work during the pandemic since I was told to stop coming in as soon as it got really serious, but at the same time, that shows they care about the well-being of us and the customers,” said server Anders Hosak. “When it was in its earlier stages, I thought there was an odd sense of entitlement from the customers – like, they were putting their life on the line to come get pizza to go and make contact with people.” 

Hosak remembered many of the regular customers showing up to buy pizzas in bulk. He believes the more logical decision would be to purchase frozen pizzas in a time of limited resources. 

Hosak said that Slice has done well in taking the extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of customers as well as staff, even if the process involves extra inconvenience for employees. 

“Working during a pandemic means having to deal with people who either believe themselves to be heroes, or just that you’re a villain keeping them in the land of the sick with every second longer you take,” Hosak said. 

Unemployment in Orange County as of January was at 2.9% according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Now only shift lead positions and Ault are allowed in the shop. 

“We have a whole protocol for when someone orders: they call, we make it, and they have to wait outside while we get their payment,” said Holly Morales, one of three shift leads who are younger than 25. “So many people have come to the door, still as if they can try and get beer — these are the most ignorant people, because they could care less that California’s in a state of emergency as long as it doesn’t directly affect them.” 

Morales said for now she is doing alright financially as she has been building her savings. Morales lives with her brother and her boyfriend who works at Whole Foods. Both are living on a day-to-day basis hoping all the precautions they take will help protect them from coronavirus exposure. 

Redfearn has been working to ensure all employees who have been laid off have access to the information for unemployment benefits. Each is also eligible for a grant of $500 from the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund so long as they have been in the industry for at least 90 days.