Parking lot closures affect beachside restaurants in various ways
To slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent crowding over Labor Day weekend, the city of Santa Barbara closed its beaches to residents unless they were exercising, along with the beach parking lots to discourage visitors.
The city did the same for the Fourth of July weekend, like many other cities in the county and along the coast.
These closures impacted the beachside restaurants, entities already dealing with COVID-19 dining restrictions.
Normally, many beachgoers are able to park their cars at the beach and walk to the beachside restaurants. They didn’t have that option during the Labor Day weekend.
However, the beach and parking lot closures both negatively and positively affected each restaurant in a different way.
Cameron Pyles, the general manager of Shoreline Cafe at 801 Shoreline Drive, told the News-Press the closures resulted in a slow weekend.
“We probably did about $5,000 less in revenue every day from Friday to Monday,” he said. “It was more manageable because there weren’t so many people with the COVID situation, so it was OK for our staff, but it definitely did impact us because we only had 15 of the public spots out directly in front of us.”
However, Mr. Pyles added it was good to see people out on their bikes and walking.
On the other hand, Chad Stevens, the owner of Chad’s at 216 W. Cabrillo Blvd., said the opposite of his establishment.
“For us, it was super busy because all the hotels had no vacancies, so there were a lot of people out and about even with those beach closures,” he told the News-Press. “It wasn’t like there was a party, but there was definitely a fair amount of people on the beach, from 100 to 200 spread out. People seemed to be socially distancing.”
He continued that Chad’s is one of a handful of restaurants serving breakfast and lunch in the area, which resulted in a busy holiday.
“A lot of people were getting away from the fires up north, or even down south, too,” Mr. Stevens said.
Although the parking lot on Stearns Wharf was still open, Jordan Scott, the director of operations for Harbor Restaurant and Longboard’s Grill, said business was slower at his wharf site.
“We definitely saw a decrease in foot traffic and business during the day,” he told the News-Press. “The evenings were relatively comparable to the rest of this summer, but not to previous years. There was definitely a drop off in sales, and we attribute it to the parking lots being closed and people not being on the beaches, for sure both on the Fourth and Labor Day weekend.”
In addition to Stearns Wharf, the harbor’s parking lots also remained open over the holidays. Larry Griggs, manager at Breakwater Restaurant at 107 Harbor Way, said the closures had no impact on business.
“It (Breakwater) wasn’t affected at all,” he told the News-Press. “It was actually busier than the year before.”
Despite the closures, tourists still made their way up from other parts of the state and headed to the Funk Zone.
Suzanne FitzGerald, manager of Santa Barbara Winery at 202 Anacapa St., said that although it’s hard to judge the level of business during COVID times, the winery staff could tell it was a holiday weekend.
“Labor Day, we were super busy. There were a lot of people from out of town. It (the closures) didn’t slow us down at all,” she told the News-Press. “We got a lot of phone calls asking if we were going to be open, so I don’t think it really affected us at all. We were still very busy.”