The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has forced the closures of local restaurants, putting thousands of servers, bartenders, cooks and other staff out of work for the foreseeable future.
With Congress working on a relief package as unemployment claims skyrocket, a Rancho Santa Fe restaurant owner launched two programs to help support his employees.
Restaurateur Bertrand Hug had to lay off more than 200 employees at Rancho Santa Fe’s Mille Fleurs and Mister A’s, another restaurant he owns in downtown San Diego. Both are temporarily closed and not offering takeout or delivery.
But if customers purchase gift cards on either of their websites (www.millefleurs.com and www.asrestaurant.com), 50% of the proceeds will go to employees from both establishments. For at least the next two weeks, Hug will also purchase and distribute produce boxes to all employees, each one with potatoes, legumes, root vegetables and other items.
“We are thinking of all of you at this time,” Hug said in an email to employees. “I want to remind you all that we are here if you need anything.”
He added that he hopes restaurants will reopen for April, “but everything is completely fluid and we will have to update as things progress.” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s executive order that requires restaurants to close their dining rooms is in effect until March 31, but could be extended.
“We’re all going to need relief,” Hug said, referring to government assistance to make up for the lost revenue.
The mayor’s office announced a plan to provide microloans to businesses, including bars and restaurants, that have had to close.
In a March 18 news release, Faulconer said the city wants to take “aggressive action today to help businesses stay afloat and continue to pay as many employees as possible.” There will also likely be federal and state initiatives to help businesses.
“I know one thing: We were not prepared for it as a government. Who could ever anticipate something like this?” Hug said, while also noting a 2015 speech by Bill Gates warning about lack of preparation for a deadly pandemic.