Long Beach State students are returning to work as restaurants in Long Beach begin reopening outdoor dining.
For Leah Feldman, a second-year studio art major who works as a host at Tantalum Restaurant in the Marina Pacifica Shopping Center, it’s exciting to return to work.
Feldman said that she loves where she works, the people she works with and that working always helped take her mind off school.
Tantalum Restaurant reopened outdoor dining on Jan. 30, but even with social distancing in place and employees wearing masks, Feldman said the virus is still a concern.
“We have the proper precautions but as the host, I’m the first person to greet the guests so if they’re not wearing a mask, I have to be the one to tell them that,” Feldman said. “I have to take their temperature and if it’s beyond a certain limit I have to turn them away. So me and my fellow hosts are at the forefront of the restaurant.”
On Jan. 25, Long Beach announced that outdoor dining, among other businesses, would reopen, coming off of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement the same day that he will be lifting stay-at-home orders across California.
Feldman said her main source of income was working at Tantalum Restaurant but was put out of work each time the restaurant had to close over the past year.
While Feldman said her parents have been able to help her by splitting her rent with her, she still has groceries and other bills to pay for. Feldman received unemployment, but it accounted for the time she wasn’t working at Tantalum Restaurant in the previous year. That, and losing out on tips, meant Feldman wasn’t making her normal income.
“Even though I am able to fall back on my parents, if I do, I do get a lot of guilt about that, just because I’m so far, they’re all the way up in Sacramento and they have me and my sister to take care of and themselves,” Feldman said.
Like Feldman, Zoe Kennedy, a second-year public relations major who is a hostess at Schooner Or Later off of Marina Drive, said work was part of her routine.
She’d been working at the family-owned restaurant for almost two years and said she is excited to go back and feel like she is able to socialize and be productive.
While Kennedy lives with her parents, her job at Schooner Or Later is her main source of income. When the coronavirus pandemic caused closures of businesses like Schooner Or Later, Kennedy not only lost her income, but said she didn’t qualify for unemployment.
“And my dad also worked in the movie industry, so his job got shut down as well so my family was struggling for a while,” Kennedy said.
The challenge for restaurant workers like Kennedy and Feldman is that they must make sure customers are complying with the safety orders put into place like wearing masks.
“I’ve had people argue with me all summer, all the fall about it, and it’s probably the most frustrating thing because we’re just trying to do our jobs and make sure everyone’s up to code and people just want to argue about it,” Kennedy said.
Jovana Abreu is a current student at Long Beach City College who plans to transfer to CSULB for the fall semester. Abreu works as a server at the Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in the Long Beach Towne Center.
Abreu said she’s been furloughed from Lucille’s multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic, so she’s been relying on unemployment and working a side job as a nanny. That proved to be difficult, considering she said she lost a nannying job with one family at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unemployment has been helpful for the time being, Abreu said, but for someone like her who is responsible for all of her expenses, it’s not enough.
Since she moved out of her family’s home when she graduated high school at 17, Abreu pays for all of her expenses, from car insurance to her phone bills and rent.
Abreu said that the coronavirus pandemic provided a brief break between juggling all of her work and school responsibilities.
Returning back to work at Lucille’s means that Abreu will have to be extra careful, seeing as she is working with a baby through her nannying job. It also means having to deal with customers who do not realize the risks the restaurant staff takes in order to provide them with service.
“It’s just hard because [customers] don’t have as much patience as what we’re trying to do and they don’t understand what we’re having to sacrifice and what we’re having to do,” Abreu said.