SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After weeks of waiting, customers can finally eat outdoors in Santa Barbara.
SBCC student Christopher Scattini sat down at Joe's Cafe on Sunday to enjoy the long-awaited experience.
“Coming through State Street and seeing it empty put a hole in my heart,” he said. “Seeing it all reopen is just magnificent.”
Neal Stuckey came to town with his wife and kids from San Luis Obispo.
“Eating at your house is great, but at some point you want to enjoy something a little bit different,” he said. “It’s nice getting out after seven weeks.”
This week’s statewide decision to lift the regional stay-at-home order came as a complete surprise, as most restaurant owners didn’t anticipate reopening outdoors until late February.
At Hibachi Steak House & Sushi Bar, co-owner Hiro Takahashi has had a tough time bringing back his employees on such short notice.
“Right now, I have to do everything,” he said. “I have to wash the dishes, do the attendance for customers and make sushi.”
After last week’s rainstorm slowed things down, most businesses experienced a steady stream of customers throughout the weekend.
“Friday night from 4 o'clock on, it was like a weekend in the summertime,” Joe's Cafe manager Joey Somerville said. “The people came out and yesterday was one of our bigger days.”
On Saturday night, State Street was packed with people out and about.
“Last night there were a lot of people, young people, bunch of people waiting in long lines,” Takahashi said. “No social distancing in sight.”
“I think it’s just pent-up frustration and demand,” Stuckey said. “People want to go and live their lives.”
Some are anxious that this behavior could result in yet another statewide shutdown.
“We worry about it,” Takahashi said. "Everybody worries about another lockdown.”
Others look forward to the future with restrictions rolled back.
“The next goal for us is to get back inside,” Somerville said. “To get the bars open.”
“To see these small business owners open up again, gives us all a boost in morale,” Scattini concluded. “They’ve made something really beautiful out of these dark times.”
Many of State Street’s restaurants are banking on a boost next weekend from Super Bowl Sunday.