Carlsbad Village Restaurants Protest Against Shutdowns

Restaurants Open For In-Person Dining

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Photo by Becca Petty

The Compass welcomes diners back after reopening for in-person dining. The Compass has gathered lots of support from restaurant-lovers for their offer of inside and outside dining during the pandemic.

Becca Petty, Staff Reporter

On Dec. 11, the scene of the pandemic in Carlsbad dramatically shifted as restaurant owners defied stay-at-home county mandates and re-opened their restaurants in a state of “peaceful protest.”

In a movement started by Annie Rammel, owner of the OAK + Elixir Wine Beer Eatery, restaurants have come together to offer in-person dining, posting signs on their patios that read, “this space is being used as a peaceful protest to protect the rights of restaurants and small businesses.”

“This is not a political move. It has nothing to do with us trying to go against Gavin Newsom and the government. It is purely to save our

Employees at Hooked on Poke prepare to-go orders for customers. Though Hooked on Poke is not open for in-person dining, employees express concern at still having to interact with people ordering in-store. (Photo by Becca Petty )

businesses and provide for our families,” Rammel said in an article with NBC San Diego. 

Many employees had to plan to be out of a job indefinitely once the stay-at-home mandate was put in place, but some have been given the opportunity to continue working in protesting restaurants or in restaurants able to make a smooth transition to to-go only service. 

“To be honest, I was concerned [to continue working] because a lot of people didn’t take COVID more seriously,” said an employee of Hooked on Poke. Hooked on Poke has been open in the Village throughout the pandemic for to-go orders, but with a create-your-own poke bar, employees still have to interact with customers inside the restaurant. 

Though many workers have been nervous at the idea of returning to jobs, they also express how much support they’ve received from frequent patrons. 

“A lot of our customers are very loyal to us. We’ve had a lot of customers eat here specifically because they’re like ‘we’re so glad you’re open!’” said the employee at Hooked on Poke. 

The initial decision to peacefully protest was made to save jobs and businesses, but the protest has also been backed by local diners in the Carlsbad community. 

A restaurant in the Village opens doors to customers for in-person dining. Like many other small businesses, restaurants need the support of locals to stay open and serve the community. (Photo by Becca Petty)

“I think everyone still wants to go out and be social but more in a safe way. Instead of being at a house party or something, everything [here] is being sanitized, everything is being wiped down, people are being forced to be spaced out. I think it’s been positive for people because obviously, we’re all going crazy cooped up inside all the time,” said an employee at The Compass, a restaurant that has gathered a lot of support for offering in-person dining in the Village. 

The protest has had a positive impact, bringing together people in the community to support local restaurants, but the obvious question remains: Is in-person dining safe?

Assistant police chief, Mickey Williams, works with the county’s safe reopening compliance team to respond to health order complaints and submit restaurants in violation to the district attorney. Currently, over 30 restaurants have been visited by the Carlsbad Police Department, with 18 being found in violation and submitted for review.

“We’re trying to be fair under the rules, but we are enforcing them,” Williams said. “The health orders are issued to keep us all healthy and safe, so any deviation from those orders potentially jeopardizes people’s health.”

Restaurants found in violation are first educated by the CPD to adjust to the county mandates, but if a restaurant continues to be in violation and risks the health of customers, they are given a cease and desist order from the county that requires them to stop their activity. 

As is with many public gatherings during the pandemic, there’s a heavy risk associated with dining in-person. However, protesting Village restaurants have done something bold that many locals appreciate: they’ve given citizens the freedom to make a choice for themselves. They’ve stood up for connection and have brought together the community in support of small businesses, both those that are protesting and those that are shut down until the stay-at-home order is lifted. 

“We all see different businesses in need and hurting…  it seems like there’s been more of a desire to help [local] businesses by spending and doing takeout. I think there’s a possibility that through COVID, our community has gotten a little bit closer and more helpful,” said Williams.