The hospitality industry on the Monterey Peninsula typically employs more than 23,000 workers. But these are not normal times and restaurants and workers are now struggling to find a new normal.
Alissa and Anthony Carnazzo are owners of Stationaery. It’s a neighborhood restaurant and coffee shop tucked away in a small courtyard in Carmel-By-The-Sea. An herb garden sits out front and the couple and their children live upstairs.
Tuesday’s “shelter-in-place” order by Monterey County’s Public Health Department changed their business and their lives in an instant. Under the orders, restaurants can no longer offer table service.
“We used to be a sit-down restaurant that did a little bit of to-go. Now we have zero sit down…we're a to go restaurant," explains Carnazzo.
It means re-thinking everything from marketing to menus. For example, food now has to be prepared to travel.
“[Even] if it needs to go down a bumpy road and travel for 15 minutes, it's still going to be good at the other end,” Carnazzo says.
So, he will stop preparing the delicate dishes.
He still needs to determine how he will take orders, collect payments and arrange pick-ups in the new world of “social distancing.” In order for his business to survive those changes need to be made immediately.
Carnazzo says, “[Its] not just changing day by day, but changing how by hour and we’re doing our best to…try and basically create a new business overnight.”
He says the hardest decision he had to make was letting his nearly 20-person staff go. T.J. Ellis was the restaurant’s Barista and for him, everything changed early Tuesday morning.
“About 5 a.m., I read the emails saying that we were going to be closed and it was extremely upsetting," Ellis said.
It was upsetting, because for TJ, the restaurant was more than just a paycheck.
“The stationaery was honestly like my happiness, like my home and being there and serving people was what kept me content," Ellis explained.
He says he is still trying to figure out his next step, but it is hard because the restaurant is not the only business affected by the virus.
He says his younger brother just arrived from Baltimore in hopes of finding work on the Monterey Peninsula. Now, with two in the house, Ellis is trying to think creatively about how to make ends meet.
“We were trying to think of little things to do for our landlord that would help deduct rent,” He explains.
If that doesn’t work, he and his brother may have to move home to Baltimore.
Back at Stationaery, Anthony Carnazzo sits in the office of his now empty restaurant. He says he misses his customers and his employees and he recalls how his staff helped him closed down the restaurant on the last day.
“My team, as always, did a beautiful job of cleaning up the restaurant so everything is perfectly placed. All the tables are as they should be. All the silverware is polished. All the glasses are polished on the shelves. But it's painfully quiet. It's a restaurant ready to go, ready to feed people. But it's going to be awhile before we’re able to do that again,” he says.
Sadly, for restaurants and workers all over California, this may be the week that changes their world forever.