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Local outdoor dining sees drop in business under smoke skies

Restaurants on the Central Coast has seen a drop in business because of wildfires. Business owners say customers don’t want to eat outside in the smoke and the ash, and outdoor dining remains the only option.“A dramatic drop the first week,” said Jim Culcasi owner of Rosine’s in downtown Monterey.Culcasi said the impacts were much worse when the Carmel and River Fires we’re burning too. The smoke impacts come as restaurants are already struggling to survive Covid-19 restrictions.Local produce and seafood wholesalers say they have also seen a drop in business during the fires with restaurants ordering less food.“We’ve seen an 85 percent drop in our business,” said Gaspar Catanzaro with Monterey Fish Company.Cantanzaro said they expect business to pick back up when the smoke clears but worries about what will happen with outdoor dining this winter. Restaurant owners are worried too.“I am very concerned about that,” said Culcasi.Culcasi said they can add awnings and heaters but it’s tough to make people comfortable outdoors when it’s both rainy and windy. “They get cold, we may have to buy heaters, and then the flu season, it’s hard to know what will happen,” said Ivan Vasquez with Old Monterey Cafe.Vasquez said they’re operating at 25 percent capacity with outdoor dining only and have brought back 75 percent of their staff since the start of the pandemic.Culcasi said he is hopeful the state will allow indoor dining this winter so he and his staff can get back to business.“We are ready to get back to normal,” said Culcasi.Monterey County has made progress in improving its Covid-19 metrics but has yet to see enough improvement to trigger a change in tier status. Monterey County is currently in the purple with 15.9 cases per 100,000 residents and positivity rate of 9.9 percent. The case rate needs to drop to below seven per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate needs to be at or below eight percent to move into the red.Once in the red tier indoor dining could reopen with a 25 percent cap on capacity.

Restaurants on the Central Coast has seen a drop in business because of wildfires. Business owners say customers don’t want to eat outside in the smoke and the ash, and outdoor dining remains the only option.

“A dramatic drop the first week,” said Jim Culcasi owner of Rosine’s in downtown Monterey.

Culcasi said the impacts were much worse when the Carmel and River Fires we’re burning too. The smoke impacts come as restaurants are already struggling to survive Covid-19 restrictions.

Local produce and seafood wholesalers say they have also seen a drop in business during the fires with restaurants ordering less food.

“We’ve seen an 85 percent drop in our business,” said Gaspar Catanzaro with Monterey Fish Company.

Cantanzaro said they expect business to pick back up when the smoke clears but worries about what will happen with outdoor dining this winter. Restaurant owners are worried too.

“I am very concerned about that,” said Culcasi.

Culcasi said they can add awnings and heaters but it’s tough to make people comfortable outdoors when it’s both rainy and windy.

“They get cold, we may have to buy heaters, and then the flu season, it’s hard to know what will happen,” said Ivan Vasquez with Old Monterey Cafe.

Vasquez said they’re operating at 25 percent capacity with outdoor dining only and have brought back 75 percent of their staff since the start of the pandemic.

Culcasi said he is hopeful the state will allow indoor dining this winter so he and his staff can get back to business.

“We are ready to get back to normal,” said Culcasi.

Monterey County has made progress in improving its Covid-19 metrics but has yet to see enough improvement to trigger a change in tier status. Monterey County is currently in the purple with 15.9 cases per 100,000 residents and positivity rate of 9.9 percent. The case rate needs to drop to below seven per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate needs to be at or below eight percent to move into the red.

Once in the red tier indoor dining could reopen with a 25 percent cap on capacity.

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