A group of Oakland restaurant owners has composed and sent a "Retail Recovery Proposal" letter this week to the City of Oakland, expressing their collective urgency around saving their businesses while reopening safely and protecting their workers while moving "back into what is hopefully a new and improved 'normal.'"
"Something has to be done immediately to avoid the certainty of mass restaurant closures," reads the letter, signed thus far by over 150 Oakland-based small-business owners, workers, and stakeholders and originally coauthored by Miles Palliser, owner of the Athletic Club Oakland; Chris Pastena, owner of Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern, and Calavera (depicted above); Jake Freed, owner of Shiba Ramen; Derreck Johnson, owner of Home of Chicken and Waffles; Melissa Axelrod, owner of Mockingbird; and Romney Steele, owner of The Cook and Her Farmer.
"Small retail businesses, and the restaurant industry more specifically, were already suffering and in need of support prior to this crisis," the letter reads. "These businesses are particularly vulnerable now due to COVID-19. ...
"Restaurants, bars, cafes, and nightlife venues are a crucial part of the fabric of any city, particularly Oakland. ... We are in a period of social distancing, but we will again be in a place where social gathering is part of daily life. We need to make sure our public spaces are still standing and positioned to thrive.
"Restaurants are also the driver of a much larger economic ecosystem. Along with thousands of jobs for hospitality workers, we also support vendors, farmers, delivery drivers, cleaners, tradespeople, and more. ...
"One thing that is critical for everyone to realize is that ‘allowing’ restaurants to reopen does not necessarily save restaurants or improve the economy. It does not mean that the public will come out or that we will have jobs for many people to come back to."
Among other requests, the letter asks for eviction protections, increased Covid-19 testing, a Covid-19 improvements fund to finance pandemic-mandated changes, and protection "from unfair and unnecessary legal action."
The letter also requests liability protection, given that restaurateurs "could face action from a customer who states that they contracted COVID-19 while on our premises. Our insurance policies do not cover us if a customer sues us claiming this happened."
Signers of the letter include Cortt Dunlap (Awaken Café); Mayra Velazquez (Xingones); William Tsui (Viridian); Matt Kreutz (Firebrand Artisan Bread); Blake Joffe (Beauty's Bagel Shop); May Seto Wasem (Grand Lake Kitchen); Austin Cheung (Marica); Akara Sutraromluck (Pintoh Thai); Amy Hillyard (Farley's Coffee); Susanne Breen (Downtown Wine Merchants), and many more.
To sign the letter and/or show support, click here