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Guam restaurants struggle to stay open without indoor dining

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — While some restaurants on Guam are now able to offer alfresco, or outdoor, dining to help boost sales, other establishments are still trying to tread water and keep business afloat with curbside and pickup service only.

Indoor dining is still not allowed under the restrictions of Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 or PCOR1.

Owner and manager of Sakura Noodle House Ryu Miwa said he would like to offer outdoor dining, but the recent weather is an additional challenge.

“We could have, but at the moment the weather is just on and off, the brutal sun and then heavy rain. So we are not offering that at the moment, because the weather has been pretty unstable,” he said.

Miwa said they are doing what they can to attract customers.

“We have been putting out specials to make curbside more appealing because people would like to eat here but unfortunately we can’t offer that option right now,” he said.

And while outdoor dining could help business, it may not be the answer to getting entirely back up to speed, according to Miwa.

 

Elton Koo and other restaurant owners on Guam are restricted from having dine-in customers. Only takeout and outdoor seating that comply with social distancing guidelines are permitted. Photo by Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post 

“I think indoor would be the best to raise business, but with the pandemic situation it’s understandable,” he said. “Restaurants, we just all have to take the hit for now and try to get through this.”

Restaurants that are able to offer outdoor dining have to limit diners to six per table, everyone at a table must be from the same household, and tables must be 6 feet apart.

For others such as Frank Solomon, the manager of King's Restaurant at the Compadres Mall in Dededo, outdoor dining is not an option due to limited space.

“We are only doing curbside and there is no (outdoor space) for us so we are only doing to-go,” said Solomon. “I think if we were able to set up some kind of outdoor dining, we could generate some kind of revenue from that. There is no room here. It’s hard.”

Solomon said things were looking up before Guam returned to PCOR1 in mid-August.

“We were holding our own when it was PCOR3. We were actually catching up on everything, and revenue was good. It was coming around. Right now we are on PCOR1 and it's low, it’s very low.”

For now Solomon said they will do the best they can to operate with the restrictions.

“It varies,” he said of the amount of pickup orders they receive daily. “There are some good days and some bad days. Pretty much we are going to keep up with curbside until we open up dine-in.”

The owner of Cool Garden Restaurant in Dededo, Elton Koo said he would not open an outdoor dining area now that it is allowed, even if he had the space.

“I don’t want to take that risk right now. Because right now, I don’t suggest outdoor eating because it’s still considered gathering,” he said.

Koo said he was even cautious about opening indoor dining when Guam was placed in PCOR3 in July.

“When the governor said (before) that we can do inside dining, I still wanted to observe a while first,” he said.

Other extra measures Koo is taking to keep his employees and customers safe is an added plastic barrier inside the front door to limit air blowing inside, and a hypochlorous acid air mister, which Koo said kills 99% of bacteria.

“In this moment actually we are having a hard time with the business because of the lockdown,” said Koo, who took over the Cool Garden Restaurant with his wife Sandra in March 2019. Koo pointed out a silver lining in that the two worked to build a faithful customer base before the pandemic, something that is now paying off.

“Luckily all my customers are being very supportive,” he said.

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