Since the first fears of the pandemic emerged in the U.S. in early March, businesses across the US have endured six months of uncertainty. The initial spring shutdowns delivered a strong punch to establishments such as salons, daycare centers, and tattoo parlors.
According to the Local Economic Impact Report by Yelp.com, as many as 97,966 businesses have permanently shut down during the pandemic.
The restaurant industry is among the most impacted with an increasing number of closures – totaling 32,109 closures as of August 31, with 19,590 of these business closures indicated to be permanent (61%). Breakfast and brunch restaurants, burger joints, sandwich shops, dessert places and Mexican restaurants have been shutting down the most but those that are still alive are struggling, too. In order to survive, they must adapt to new regulations and consumer habits. Some, however, are finding really creative ways to deal with these challenges. Especially, when it comes to outdoor dining. Or is it indoor dining? I don't know. I can't tell the difference anymore.
Current medical and scientific evidence shows that Covid is spread mainly through respiratory droplets and aerosols that are produced when an infected person exhales. These respiratory droplets and aerosols may remain in the air for long periods of time in indoor spaces, putting other individuals who visit this shared space at risk. Properly worn face coverings help to reduce the spread of these respiratory droplets and aerosols and locating activities outdoors helps to disperse them. Enhancing indoor ventilation and increasing outdoor air exchange in indoor spaces also does the trick, but not as effectively as locating activities outdoors. That's why authorities are forcing dining establishments to change the way they do business.
Fortunately, there are a number of actions restaurants and bars can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick, and wearing masks) and workplace prevention practices, like environmental cleaning and disinfection, have been proved to prevent the spread of Covid.
But with a rise in active coronavirus cases, establishments that took their services outdoors are also threatened. Last week, for example, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommended that restaurants be closed for outdoor on-site dining. That means that the open-air spaces operators have spent thousands to build are no longer considered safe. As a result, business owners started to lose their temper, asking why are they receiving the short end of the stick when grocery stores and retail shops, and outdoor gyms are allowed to remain open with capacity caps in place.
The new rule took effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday and restricts restaurants — along with breweries, wineries, and bars — to takeout and delivery only for the first time since May. It will remain in place for at least three weeks, officials said. Wineries and breweries can continue retail operations.
But let's try to finish off on a high note. Yelp's closure data also shows that demand for home, local and automotive services has remained robust with a far lower rate of closures compared to restaurants and retail. Towing companies, plumbers, and contractors, in particular, have maintained a low rate of closures, with only six to seven out of every thousand businesses closed. Who knows, maybe they will open some cool new restaurants when the pandemic is over.
Winter outdoor dining enclosure, aka indoors, we’ve come full circle