Our country will remember this year as the year of COVID-19 and the uprising in activism for Black communities throughout the country. During a financially burdensome time for all restaurants, but especially for Black business owners, we started the Black Restaurant Coalition of Los Angeles. Our organization was founded to strengthen, support, and promote restaurateurs, small businesses and the entire Black restaurant community.
Many small business restaurant owners in Los Angeles County are still standing, but they have been through the unimaginable these past few months. While facing uncertainty in unprecedented times, restaurant owners have been forced to stop serving customers indoors and outdoors, then forced to only open outdoor dining.
Restaurants changed their business model overnight to focus on outdoor dining and takeout. Many restaurants invested thousands of dollars to create outdoor seating only to have outdoor dining banned yet again.
One of the worst parts about the announcement to shut outdoor dining again was that it came just before the holiday season, when most restaurants would be gearing up for a busy time.
We understand that the County has tough decisions to make, but folks knew when the ban was enacted that there was no evidence of COVID-19 transmission at outdoor dining establishments. That is precisely why a judge recently overturned LA County’s ban on outdoor dining. While we cannot eat outside at the moment due to a 3-week stay-at-home order from the state, this ruling showed that the County was out of line when ordering businesses to shut most of their operations without the proper reasoning to back that decision.
In the midst of all of this, the County released a report the following week mentioning that they will continue their pursuit to develop a new burdensome food handler card requirement. This proposal would require delivery drivers to pay for and take a lengthy course to get a certification before they could deliver food.
An added certification would dissuade folks from signing up to deliver food.
Restaurants are relying on food delivery more than ever. Now is not the time to add a requirement that will lead to fewer delivery drivers and could create a shortage. A shortage in food delivery workers after months of slow business will force many restaurants out of business.
Restaurants, like all businesses, expect their services and products to be excellent because it represents them and their brand. They, of course, want safe food delivery to be practiced but this program would not help make food delivery safer. We already have safety protocols in place that protects the food for customers and restaurants. This year, the California legislature passed a law enhancing food delivery safety standards, including requiring restaurants to seal takeout bags and requiring delivery drivers to transport food in a clean environment.
Food delivery has been a lifeline for restaurants that are getting hit from every angle. Now is not the time for an unnecessary new requirement that will impact our industry.
The Black Restaurant Coalition of Los Angeles is committed to our members and Black- owned restaurants throughout the County. We keep our pulse on the issues that impact restaurants and will continue to do that and push back when it is warranted.
The County needs to do more for restaurants, especially the small businesses that may not make it through another slow month.
Restaurants and the people who depend on them for employment, need our support now more than ever.
Let’s thank our restaurants.
Let’s order from our restaurants regularly.
And let’s advocate for our restaurants.
Jades Stevens is the founder of Dine Black L.A. The Black Restaurant Coalition of Los Angeles supports and promotes restaurateurs, small businesses and the entire Black restaurant community to ensure the equitable economic growth of the sector.