Story by Lilian Zhu
Photo by Ella Jayasekera
Local restaurant owners expressed hope and happiness when outdoor dining reopened on Friday, Jan. 29 after a two-month hiatus.
The spike in coronavirus cases over the holiday season resulted in more restrictive stay-at-home orders, including the shutdown of outdoor dining. However, cases in L.A. County have fallen significantly in the past month, allowing for the reopening of outdoor dining, albeit with restrictions. Parties must be six people or fewer, tables need to be set at least eight feet apart, and servers are required to wear face coverings.
Aro Latin, a restaurant with a focus on traditional Mexican cuisine located at the corner of Mission Street and Diamond Avenue, took a hit when L.A. County shut down outdoor dining. Takeout orders only brought in 10 to 15 percent of usual profits, and it could not staff the typical amount of employees at one time. However, with the addition of outdoor dining, Aro Latin’s profits have risen back up to 60 to 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
“[Outdoor dining] has impacted us in a really positive fashion. The most important thing is that I’m able to staff five to six people in a day as opposed to one or two,” Aro Latin owner Kiran Raina said. “Everyone understands [that they need] to do their part and [that] the only way we get to stay open is to take hygiene and health very seriously.”
Hi-Life Burgers, a burger shack and source of old-fashioned Mexican dishes, has also experienced a growth in business since the reopening of outdoor dining. The restaurant initially started construction of an outdoor patio in January 2020, and after some delay due to the coronavirus, the new patio opened for the first time to customers when outdoor dining returned.
“Especially when the weather is nice, people are loving to sit outside and enjoy the outdoor patio. We are happy with the turnout,” Hi-Life Burgers owner Nick Tsianos said. “We’ve been really humbled with our customers and the tremendous support that we’ve had. That has meant everything to us. It has carried us through, and things have been getting better and better.”
Community members who have dined outdoors at local eateries have expressed positive reviews, especially about the health precautions taken by servers and other staff members.
“It’s great to be able to get out, support local businesses, and enjoy a restaurant family meal again,” resident Bill Michels said. “It felt safe [because] all staff wore face shields and masks.”
The reopening of indoor dining will not be an option until L.A. falls into a less restrictive tier. When that happens, restaurants will only be able to operate with 25 percent capacity or fewer than 100 occupants.