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La Jolla businesses post-pandemic: hand sanitizer, cleaning protocols, outdoor dining?

The Pannikin coffee shop in La Jolla expanded its outdoor seating options during the pandemic and renovated the interior.
The Pannikin coffee shop on Girard Avenue in La Jolla expanded its outdoor seating options during the COVID-19 pandemic and renovated the interior.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Some of La Jolla’s businesses are taking what the state and county required of them in order to operate and carrying it forward even after the pandemic ends.

Yes, we get it. When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, many will not want the reminder that 2020 and early 2021 ever existed. But some of La Jolla’s businesses are taking what the state and county required of them in order to operate and carrying it forward even after the pandemic is over.

The changes primarily are in cleanliness protocols and availability of hand sanitizer. Some are changes to layout and design. Others are business-oriented.

At Pannikin Coffee & Tea in The Village, owners took advantage of COVID-related closures to rearrange the interior and exterior and change its offerings for customers.

“The pandemic sent us into a creative space,” said co-owner Amanda Morrow. “We expanded the kitchen and bought a roaster to roast our own coffee. We put in new walls and windows from recycled material we had on hand. A lot has changed for us. We have four order areas, a drive-through which we didn’t have before. Before we only had one order point.”

The outdoor area has been expanded to include a garden and more seating options, which the owners hope to keep, Morrow said.

She said she has been following the permit application filed by Puesto La Jolla to keep the outdoor dining area on the parking spaces fronting its location for up to five years.

“If the city grants Puesto’s application, we plan to apply for the same thing,” Morrow said. “We need to make the space work for us and our customers, so we homed in on the best use of the space we have.”

In addition to physical changes, Morrow said, the team will continue its stringent cleaning protocol that has “tightened up dramatically. I don’t see that going away anytime soon. The place is spotless and we keep a super-clean area.”

Similarly, at Harry’s Coffee Shop, management likely will enhance the outdoor patio and add a to-go window for some food items.

James Rudolph, son of Harry’s founder Harry Rudolph, said hand sanitizer will continue to be offered and counters will be cleaned after each use.

Adapting to changes has been important, he said, citing the Will Rogers quote “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there,” which the family uses as a credo.

In addition to Village establishments that hope to keep or expand their outdoor dining options, an effort is underway in La Jolla Shores to have the outdoor dining program there become permanent.

Just as movie theaters are opening again, even at reduced capacity, the owner of Pacific Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas said the upscale cinema locations will not reopen from their COVID-19 shutdowns.

In the realm of retail, Warwick’s bookstore owner Nancy Warwick said she likely would continue to offer hand sanitizer and clean the counters after use.

“It was a great idea, and given how greatly [having hand sanitizer] reduced the number of flu cases across the country, it shows how hand sanitizer, mask wearing and social distancing helped prevent the threat of other illness,” she said. “I think that will continue because it’s just good common sense and hygiene behavior for a retail store.”

Warwick said she also plans to continue to sell masks and to be more vocal about the store’s delivery option.

“We offered delivery beforehand and will continue to do so and do a better job of promoting it,” she said. “A lot of people were not taking advantage of it in the past because it wasn’t a well-known service.”

At Geppetto’s Toys, store manager Molly McCarthy said changes that made cleaning easier will remain, but the longevity of other changes is unknown.

She said the store offers hand sanitizer for everyone and that employees use the same register every day.

“The way we keep our store clean is definitely going to continue,” McCarthy said. “For everything else, it’s a wait-and-see game. If they lift the mask restriction, will we? We don’t know. We’ve been keeping up with guidelines and doing as the county requests … but we don’t know what the summer will bring.”

At Everyday California in La Jolla Shores, several pandemic-induced changes to business operations are slated to remain: touchless and automated processing, remote working and small groups. The ocean recreation store offers both retail and equipment rental services.

Everyday California General Manager Kama Hurwitz cleans a paddleboard with sanitizing spray.
Everyday California General Manager Kama Hurwitz cleans a paddleboard with sanitizing spray.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Co-founder Chris Lynch said those who participate in tours and other activities sign liability waivers using QR codes instead of pens and pages. “It really sped up the check-in process and made us more efficient, plus it’s a much cleaner and safer way to get things done,” he said.

“From a management perspective, what’s worked for us amid the pandemic is remote working,” Lynch said. “Not only has remote working helped clear up space in the office, but people are just as productive working from home. Moving forward, we will plan to do a hybrid work schedule where certain teams come in to collaborate in person on certain dates. We are currently working on a plan on how to roll this out.”

As a result of COVID-19, “we broke our tours into smaller groups,” co-founder Mike Samer said. “Our employees and customers seem to really enjoy the more intimate experience. This is something we will continue to implement moving forward.”

Some Village retailers have used the need for hand sanitizer as an opportunity. At Hi Sweetheart boutique, owner Molly Rossettie said she started carrying hand sanitizer bottles with cheeky slogans on the front, such as “Dirty mind, clean hands,” and ones for children in fun colors and scents.

She said she likely would lift most restrictions, such as reduced capacity, as county guidelines allow.

“But we’ll still offer hand sanitizer,” she said. “I think people like that anyway. It’s a nice alternative to hand washing since there aren’t a lot of public restrooms, so it’s a good idea for La Jolla businesses.” ◆