SB pier buzzes with activity despite COVID-19
Not even cloudy skies, a chilly breeze or a global pandemic could keep avid fishermen, local seafood diners and visitors from near and far, from enjoying all Stearns Wharf has to offer.
Even on a gloomy Monday afternoon, the pier was buzzing with activity and foot traffic.
People were chatting on the patios of restaurants, taking photos, casting lines and simply taking in the ocean view.
Some chose to wear masks and keep their distance, but the majority didn’t.
Stearns Wharf was one of the only piers in Southern California, joined only by Goleta Pier, to remain open throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. Only a few of the restaurants served takeout.
Now, restaurants and shops have slowly opened their doors back up, taking advantage of the outdoor seating many of them already featured.
The majority of businesses said they’ve been swamped with customers. However, some said this reopening was easier said than done.
Jonathan Fisher, one of the managers of Santa Barbara Shellfish Company located on the wharf, said the restaurant opened up their indoor dining area for a week, but had to close it “for our own safety.”
“Definitely the hardest thing is having people following the rules,” he said. “(People) not wearing masks inside, not respecting each other’s personal space, not respecting our personal space, just the basic rules.”
He said many noncustomers walk in to use the restroom intended only for customers..
“It’s just been kind of a free for all out here to be honest,” Mr. Fisher said. “Other than that, people have been really willing to support and have been patient, spending money and wanting to take care of us and support us during the hard times.”
Taryn Phipps, a bartender at the Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room, said that while “people have been respectful with masks at the bar and sanitizing,” the business’ reopening has also come with challenges.
“People don’t listen about moving around,” she said. “We try to have people stay at their same table, and it’s almost impossible to control people.”
She added, “People mostly seem really excited to be back. They’ve adapted to the changes.”
A waitress from Moby Dick, a seafood restaurant on the wharf, had no complaints about COVID-19 precautions.
“People have been really good from my observation,” said Lee Wiggins, a Moby Dick waitress.
“Once they sit down, they take their masks off, but that’s their prerogative. Many of them keep them on when they order and take them off as soon as we’re done (with the order).”
She attributed the restaurant’s success to its large amount of outdoor dining space, which makes social distancing easy.
Samy Mendoza runs the stand for Celebration Cruises, which provides public and private cruises, along with water taxi rides. The company requires masks and social distancing, and has reduced the number of passengers on the boats.
“It’s been a little bit difficult with everything going on,” Ms. Mendoza said. “But it’s good to see people still coming out and enjoying being out in the fresh air.”
Aside from the wharf’s business side, residents and tourists strolling up and down or relaxing on the benches seem to appreciate their ability to take in the environment even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A fisherman said he drove 700 miles to fish from the wharf, and he does it multiple times a year, no matter the weather or circumstances.
The Phoenix native, Robert Duran, caught a stingray right off Stearns Wharf.
“I love it out here. It’s quiet and nobody bothers nobody,” he said. “Everybody’s following the rules and wearing masks and gloves to go in the stores. That’s what I really love.”
Pug Bernhardt, a musician who plays live music on the wharf for tips, said he comes to the pier for the good food and all the people, and he’s only slightly worried about COVID-19 spreading.
“I feel the fear, but I don’t feel it myself,” he said. “I mean, how many people are wearing masks? Close to zero, I’d say.”
Ken Norby, a Santa Barbara resident enjoying Mr. Bernhardt’s music, said he’s not concerned about the coronavirus.
“Every other pier was closed, so people didn’t have a whole lot of choices,” he said. “People like to get out and breathe.”