Our California Restaurant’s Last Supper – Orange County Register
The windows are empty. A walk on Ventura Boulevard today is like walking through a hockey player’s mouth: tooth, missing tooth, missing tooth, missing tooth, tooth. One by one, businesses big and small are failing, canceled by Amazon, COVID-19, government incompetence and our infuriating schitzo refusal to follow mildly inconvenient health protocols like hand washing, wearing masks and crowd avoidance.
The second wave is here. The first wave too. As COVID-19 infections skyrocket and hospital beds fill beyond capacity, America (and much of the world) grapples with this grim reality: We have it detonated. We never really got the pandemic under control and now we’re wrong in what is likely a second full stop.
Yes, there is hope on the horizon.
Pharmaceutical giants are rushing to bring effective vaccines to market, but distribution will take time, and time is the one thing The Valley Inn doesn’t have.
The Valley Inn is a San Fernando Valley institution, now in its 73rd year. A 74th seems less likely.
” It’s tragic ! says Sofia Brodetsky, co-owner of the Valley Inn with her husband Boris. âOur people are literally crying. We don’t know what to do.
Opening in 1947, the Valley Inn has been THE venue in the San Fernando Valley for lunch, dinner and special events. UCLA icon John Wooden practically lived at the Inn, where his name and memorabilia are prominently displayed in the windows and above the door to the “wooden room.” Barely surviving the first stop, Sofia and Boris invested in awnings, outdoor heaters, and all other health and safety precautions available to make alfresco dining as safe as possible. Now they face another stop, right on Thanksgiving, after buying turkeys and all the fixings in preparation for the holidays. The timing couldn’t be worse.
The Brodetskys, like so many restaurateurs, including at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood, have been forced to open a GoFundMe campaign to help their employees, many of whom have been with them for decades, such as chef Gilbert, who is at its 36th year. If you can afford it, you can help at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/valley-inn-restaurant-employees-need-our-help.
Of course, The Valley Inn’s history is not unique.
Flagship companies across California face similar challenges. Chef Tom Colicchio has described COVID-19 as an “extinction level event” for the restaurant industry, while analysts predict that up to 80% of restaurant establishments may not survive. Some 15 million jobs are at stake as a $ 900 billion industry goes around in circles. Can you imagine Hollywood without Musso & Frank’s? Burbank without The Smoke House? Long Beach without Phil Trani’s?
And it’s not just the restaurants.
Musicians, actors, grips, ushers, ticket staff, hot dog vendors, theme park workers, hotel, airline and transportation workers and everyone in the events industry saw their live performances. livelihoods diminish or disappear, in many cases forever. It’s a particularly big blow in Southern California where so many people depend on our many entertainment venues.
Every job lost means lower tax revenue for federal, state, county, and municipal budgets; this is happening at the exact time more and more people are turning to the government for help. Yet budget cuts and cuts to essential services are not only likely, they are inevitable.
It won’t always be so dark.
New restaurants will open. The curtain will rise again in the halls and the conductors will set the tone for live concerts. We are social animals. Well, not me, but most of you are. People need to share the experience of a meal together, a movie with friends, a thrill ride. But this brighter new day will require trust, something in minimal quantity in the age of ‘alternative facts’, runamuck conspiracy theories, absurd allegations of stolen presidential elections, and a general distrust of government, media, etc. companies and just about everyone and everyone is in a position of power.
New vaccines will only be useful if we take them. Hopefully a new administration with a cohesive, scientific message on the pandemic will add clarity. Governor Gavin Newsom must follow his own guidelines and not be a hypocrite like he did when dining with friends (lobbyists) at the extremely high-end French laundry. And it would be nice if California stopped fraudulently sending hundreds of millions of dollars to prisoners while millions exhaust their options for unemployment benefits.
Ultimately, it will not be the government that ends the pandemic. It will be me and you, our families, friends and neighbors doing the little things that are greatest: washing our hands, wearing our masks, getting vaccinated when we can and avoiding crowds as much as possible until this terrible cloud is rising.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at: [email protected]