Covid-19 curbs: Rent killing us, say Bay Area eateries


California’s coronavirus restrictions are killing small businesses, particularly restaurants, in the absence of rent relief, stakeholders told indica News.

Are only restaurants to blame for the spread of Covid-19, asked Kalidas Raju on behalf of over 60 Indian-American-owned restaurants.

Raju, who represents the newly formed Indo-American Restaurant Association in the San Francisco Bay Area, shared his concerns with indica News on county officials in California cracking down on local businesses for violating health orders.

We all are already under stress and on top of that you are targeting the restaurants,” Raju said. “Are only restaurants are to blame for the spread of coronavirus? How about people partying in groups? They are not receiving citations.”

Raju did not disclose when asked if any of the 60 restaurants of his association got any citation from officials, but said: “Small middle-size businesses are the biggest sufferers of Covid-19.”

According to Patch Santa Clara on Friday, November 27, the Santa Clara county inspector-imposed fines on 76 local businesses that failed to follow the health requirements.

Santa Clara County, part of the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area and also called Silicon Valley, has a sizable Indian-American population.

Raju said the restaurants were taking all possible measures and following the rules.

Why does the county think it’s only the restaurants spreading the virus?” he repeated. “Are they not aware the restaurants are just sustaining somehow?”

The restaurants were shut down in March, then allowed inside seating in August but because of the surge in coronavirus cases only outside dining was allowed.

Last week, however, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a stay-at-home order that will require nonessential work and gatherings to stop between 10pm and 5am in counties with high rates of coronavirus transmission.

The order stays until December 21.

As of November 29, California had 1,198,934 confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in 19,121 deaths. The number of Covid-19-related deaths increased by 0.2 percent from the prior day total of 19,089.

The spread has been gradually on the rise and many experts have said that the weather could aid the virus in spreading.

Look it’s winter time and people do not want to eat outside and bring their children in the cold,” said Raju, who owns two restaurants, Aappa Kadai in Pleasanton and Sunnyvale.

Restaurants have to pay heavy rent, Raju pointed out.

The offices are closed and people are working from home. Whether we are closed or we get two customers or 50, we have to pay the rent,” said Raju.

He said he has met with city mayors for rent relief but they have not done anything concrete.

Another challenge for eateries, Raju said, is that is food delivery companies such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub charge 30 percent commission. “It’s huge! Companies should charge 15 percent when all mid-size restaurants are suffering,” he said.

I urge the governor of California to look into the rent issue for small businesses,” Raju said.

He said the paycheck protection program did not help as that was for employees on payroll and not to support the rent.

The rent is killing us,” he said.

Rents are pretty high, agreed Vijay Bist, CEO at Amber India Inc, which runs five upscale restaurants in the Bay Area.

Bist told indica News that restaurants just cannot survive on takeaways.

He said he hopes the federal or state government will take an initiative, but has not yet heard of any plan that the government has for small businesses.

Starting Monday, November 30, San Francisco along with San Mateo and the rest 41 counties join the purple tier. All Indoor operations at houses of worship, museums, aquariums, zoos, indoor movie theaters, indoor gyms and fitness centers will be shut down. San Francisco will also close outdoor carousels, ferris wheels and train rides.

Retail stores must limit capacity to 25 percent, but outdoor dining is permitted. Indoor retail and indoor personal services, such as hair and nail salons, outdoor fitness and limited indoor one-on-one personal training at gyms or fitness centers may continue.

Persons arriving in California from other states or countries, including returning California residents, should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

In San Mateo County, the health department reported an 85 percent spike in new Covid-19 cases from October to November. The county’s new adjusted case rate is 7.6 per 100,000 population, officials said Saturday.