PLAYA DEL REY, Calif. – During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen many restaurants make creative transformations, for example turning dining rooms into grocery stores. But now, one restaurant is sharing how its make-shift market was shut down by the L.A. County Department of Public Health, citing they did not have the proper grocery permits.
This prompted new guidelines for all L.A. County restaurants.
Bagging groceries is not what co-owner of Bacari, Robert Kronfli is used to doing, but this is part of his new daily routine.
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“These are unprecedented times. We are just trying to survive and bring on our staff and give much needed supplies to our neighborhood,” said Kronfli.
When restaurants had to close their doors, Bacari thought of a new way to stay afloat. Like many others, they became a grocery store operating out of their Playa del Rey location.
“The closest supermarket is about two miles away for everyone who lives in this neighborhood. People were able to walk in and choose their own products. We can’t do that anymore,” said Kronfli.
All three Bacari restaurants implemented this new model, but the Playa del Rey location quickly got shutdown by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
“The inspectors came in and completely shut us down, saying we don’t have the correct grocery permit,” said Kronfli.
He said the owners decided to push back and have a conversation about this. They worked with the City Council, the Mayor’s office, and County Public Health, with the help of the California Restaurant Association, to come up with a solution.
“I think we were probably one of the first ones to shut down, just because of that situation, we were one of the first ones to fight back and start that conversation,” said Kronfli.
Now, according to the LA County Department of Public Health, “Restaurants offering grocery type products (e.g. Raw ingredients, products, etc.) for retail sale may only include them on their menu for delivery or take-out. They are not allowed to set-up a grocery store in their dining room for customer self-selection as this defeats the purpose of closing dining rooms to customers and is outside of their existing permit.”
But Matt Sutton of the California Restaurant Association says this isn’t cut and dry. Hundreds of restaurant are doing this statewide and were shocked to hear they could be shut down.
“Restaurant people are incredibly passionate and incredibly creative and they pivot quickly, as they have in this case to do this kind of thing to serve their community. So, I think it was much more of a surprise to many of them. Like, 'What do you mean I can’t sell these goods to consumers?'” said Sutton.
Sutton explained how he is working with different health departments to implement what L.A. County is doing.
“In L.A. County, you have other counties and other borders where literally across the street, a different rule may apply. So, what we would love to do is take this thing we worked hard with local L.A. County restaurants and the health department and help administer it in other counties. We think it has benefits in other parts of the state where restaurants being shut down for trying to serve the public,” said Sutton.
Kronfli is happy with this outcome, especially because most customers are opting for delivery and curbside pickup services anyway to decrease their exposure.
“I think this is a great result. It allows restaurants in L.A. County to keep staff on and get some sales through the door and help the neighborhood,” said Kronfli.
Helping the neighborhood and supporting local business, as the restaurant industry continues to pivot during this challenging times.
To learn more about Bacari’s takeout and delivery program, visit: eatwithbacari.com