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Restaurant workers grapple with new safety guidelines

From separating tables to disinfecting everything that is touched, restaurants are finding their stride after being closed for months.

SAN DIEGO — It's the first full weekend that restaurants and bars are open for business during the coronavirus pandemic, but due to overcrowding, the county closed down one bar in Pacific Beach already. So how are other establishments dealing with the new safety guidelines?

Waitress Courtney Rangel of Pueblo in Pacific Beach said the reopening of restaurants was a success for her establishment.

"If you are going to dine in it's just a different experience now, it doesn't look the way it did before," Rangel said. "I was really happy that at Pueblo, it went really well, and we didn't have the overcrowding issue going on."

Pueblo did not have the massive crowds with no social distancing as seen in PB nights before, where video of El Prez bar caught county leaders’ attention and the business was shut down for the health order violations.

“It’s discouraging to hear that, but I do think there are places you can go where it's a safe experience,” Rangel said.

Making sure every table is properly disinfected and 6 feet apart has been a priority for Michael Pasulka, owner of Players Sports Grill in Poway.

“Every 30 minutes, the bathrooms are sanitized completely, the door handles are sanitized completely,” Pasulka said.

Pasulka said he is happy to be open but well aware of the challenges of staying safely compliant while trying to earn a living.

“We're not even thinking profit, we're just hoping to break even right now, all the money we made on our first night went to paying my staff opposed to supporting my own family,” Pasulka said.

Pasulka said no business is perfect and all are adjusting since reopening.

“There is a section where we used to have seating for 44, now we have seating for 16 in that same area,” he said.

From cleaning every 30 minutes down to the “contactless online menus” that customers are able to scan using the cell phones for a QR code to see the updated menu is available.

And if customers aren't tech-savvy there's still a classic menu reading option hanging on the wall.

Restaurant customers, such as retired U.S. Navy sailor of 22 years, Tyrone Maurice Cameron said he doesn't mind following the new rules.

I'm a prior military guy, so I don't have a problem with authority, so whatever the guidelines are, I will follow them.”

But it's not all smiles for one bartender and server of a North Park restaurant, who doesn't want to share her name or workplace, who said it's been scary being back to work.

"Being overwhelmed with the number of people surrounding me, without masks on, it was really alarming, I didn't feel safe or comfortable or prepared."

The server wants increased sanitizing and social distancing, but said she already told her boss, and saw her hours cut as a result, and now, she thinks after doing an interview, she'll be fired.

"I'm still going to try to talk to him, but I'm pretty sure, it'll result in him telling me to leave."

The North Park server said she wishes her job would’ve had a staff meeting prior to reopening and hopes the business gets safer soon.

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