In the end, Fatima Arroyo had less than a week to serve her customers at Chubby’s Diner before she forced to close the doors yet again.
Unwilling to let down the loyal customers that had been waiting for months for the business to reopen, Arroyo and her brother Al did the next best thing — they shifted their dining operations outdoors.
The sidewalk against the windows of the restaurant in Cardoza Center West is now abuzz with conversation during the breakfast hours as people pack into the tables that have been set-up outside to allow for a slice of normalcy while the State of California grapples with COVID-19 and its disastrous effects.
“I had just sent out the email that we were opening back up and by the middle of the next week we were notified that we had to close again,” said Arroyo, who had worked for weeks to prepare the business to welcome customers back in and reordered based on the number of tables that they anticipated serving. “Just like that we had to shift gears and figure something else out.”
When word broke that Governor Gavin Newsom was rolling back concessions that had allowed for many restaurants to go back to indoor dining, people like the Arroyos were scrambling to figure out what to do next.
Al Arroyo had to call up his suppliers and drastically scale back the size of the orders that he had placed because he didn’t want to get caught in a position like he did in early April with a refrigerator full of food that was ordered based on the near-capacity breakfast and lunch service that the restaurant has enjoyed for more than two decades.
And the transition to outdoor dining meant that the restaurant would once again have to cut back on the staff that they had just welcomed back to the restaurant — a second crushing blow for a business that prides itself on personal connection.
“People are going to come in and want to know where so-and-so is, and it’s going to be hard,” Fatima Arroyo said. “But they have bills to pay as well and have to do what’s right for them —just like we do.
“It’s hard. We never thought that we would have to do this.”
While other restaurants have followed suit and added outdoor dining to its menu — downtown eatery Besitos Fine Cuisine has an extensively decorated outdoor patio, and places like Taqueria La Estrella near Raley’s have added chairs and tables and a serving station to cater to clientele — not every restaurant has the capacity to adjust its operations as such. On Tuesday afternoon popular Mexican eatery El Jardin had a table posted at its front door to serve takeout to customers much the same way it has since the pandemic led to extensive business shutdowns.
“It’s hurting a lot of people right now,” Arroyo said. “We just want to be able to take care of our customers – we never thought that after doing everything right that we’d end up back in this position again.”
Chubby’s Diner is currently open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. serving customers on the outdoor patio. They are also doing takeout orders as well, and more information can be found by searching for Chubby’s Diner on Facebook and Instagram.