Ryan’s Place, the beloved gathering spot on Mooney Boulevard in Visalia, has closed its doors to diners for the time being as the restaurant’s owners struggle with a labor shortage while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues apace.
“It’s a temporary thing,” said Amy Rose, who manages Ryan’s Place and a handful of other restaurants founded by her father, Bob Rose. “It’s not going to be a permanent closing.”
The trouble facing the restaurant industry is a lack of workers. Many of the people Rose once employed have either moved on to other jobs, are collecting unemployment benefits or are too concerned about the coronavirus to risk daily interaction with the public.
“We’ll be able to bring it back once we can get the people,” Rose said.
Until then, Ryan’s will remain shuttered. It could be some time before workers are ready to take on the demanding jobs available in the service industry.
“Whether they’re picking in the fields or on unemployment, we’re having trouble getting them back,” Rose said. Other former employees have simply dropped off the map. “They’re not even returning calls or texts. They’re not communicating,” she said.
Second Bar and Restaurant Order
While the number of staff members who have agreed to return to work at the Ryan’s Place in Visalia would be sufficient to reopen the doors, Rose is reassigning them to positions at the eight other restaurants her family owns, especially its chain of Black Bear Diners, which includes the locations in Visalia, Tulare and Hanford and remain open.
The second Ryan’s Place in Hanford was also to remain open for indoor dining, but that was before Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday, July 1 that 19 counties would again see restaurants, bars and other service-oriented businesses prohibited from seating guests indoors. Now, business people are improvising again.
“With Ryan’s Visalia, we’re still going to close down,” Rose said. “For all the other restaurants, we’re putting tables outside with popup tents.”
Ryan’s Hanford will be open 8am to 8pm, while the Black Bear Diners will be open 7am to 9pm. All of the Roses’ restaurants will offer delivery through the various services, as well as take-out.
Restrictions Right for Many Reasons
With money tight and resources stretched, restaurateurs like the Roses are streamlining where they can to survive this time of uncertainty, and the limited hours and closure are moves meant to keep the entire chain alive.
“I’m kind of looking at profit to value, and Ryan’s Place can take a little rest,” she said. “We’ll open when the time is right, when we can get the employees and the COVID is settled.”
They’re also concerned for their customers’ wellbeing.
“I know the customers at Ryan’s are seniors. I think about my dad, who’s going to be 84 on the 2nd, and if I think about him going out, I think don’t do it,” Rose said. “Why would I want to promote other seniors going out there?”
Precautions Don’t Stop Concerns
Despite precautions such as daily temperature checks, full personal protective equipment, screenings and extra measures to isolate shifts and prevent possible cross infections at her restaurants, Rose says some of her employees still feel ill at ease.
“Some of them have said that, and I’ve said that’s 100% fine,” she said.
Rose said at least one of her employees is worried that diners aren’t doing their part to stop the spread of the virus, and she’s worried about financial repercussions if her workers are infected.
“She said, ‘I feel like I’m safe here, but I’m not sure the customers are being safe,’” Rose said. “I don’t want them (employees) to feel unsafe. If they get the COVID, then I’ve got a workers comp claim.”
Businesses Can’t Survive Forever
When asked if the rollback of re-openings in the service industry will affect her finances negatively, Rose’s answer is singular.
“Absolutely,” she said.
It may not merely be a matter of losing money. The Rose family’s entire business could be on the line. Can they survive?
“If it’s a month, yes,” said Rose. “They said it was a minimum of three weeks, so we’re preparing for longer than that.”
If the closure of most of the state’s dining rooms goes on longer than a month, then restaurateurs in the 19 affected counties will be scrambling again.
“We just keep trying to make it work in terms of dining out and delivery,” Rose said. “The name of the game is survive.”
Failure for Rose would mean more than the loss of income. It would also mean a loss of dignity.
“If we don’t survive, my dad’s life work is for nothing,” she said. “It would be devastating for him, and I can’t even let myself envision that.”