Menifee businesses work to comply with latest coronavirus mandates

Starbucks at Newport and Menifee roads cordons off all its outside tables, but business has not slowed down since the coronavirus hit in March and through all the state and county health authorities’ business closures and mandates. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

Many Menifee businesses are continuing to comply with the latest orders coming out of the governor’s office and county health authorities due to a surge in county coronavirus cases and hospitalizations but not without serious questions about the value of more closures.

The latest orders to reduce the rising COVID-19 cases were announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom in mid-July. Restaurants are required to close their indoor business and serve customers outdoors or with takeout menus.

In the two weeks before that announcement, restaurants, barber shops and hair salons reopened their businesses. Social distancing guidelines were maintained, strict sanitary actions performed and face masks were worn by employees, and their tables and stations kept continually sanitized.

Mason Jar Brewing Company in the Menifee Hub shopping area shows limited hours and takeout only provided due to the coronavirus pandemic mandates closing all dine-in restaurants and bars, although sales of alcoholic beverages is still allowed as an essential business. Valley News/Tony Ault photo
Almost every outside table is filled in front of Carnitas Express Mexican Restaurant Thursday, July 30, at Newport Road and Bradley Street, which is serving customers food outdoors only, due to the latest health mandate from state and county medical officers. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

Business owners and employers were relieved to reopen, and most said they were careful to keep the mandated requirements. Customers too said they were happy to once again have some sense of normalcy return to their dining out, and routine haircuts and stylings allowed.

After the current orders were instituted, confusion and anger were expressed by both businesses and the public in Menifee. Valley News conducted a survey and interviews which showed that most dine-in restaurants were moving their tables outdoors to the sidewalks or parking lots with the city’s permission provided the outdoor dining areas didn’t hinder pedestrian or motor traffic. All but a few of those surveyed reported a serious downturn in sales. Most barber shops and hair salons have once again closed their doors or are taking appointments only and keeping to the current health guidelines.

One of the exceptions was the Starbucks coffee shop at Newport and Menifee roads which reportedly has not lost any business since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March.

Carnitas Express Mexican Restaurant posts notices telling customers that the restaurant is only accepting to go orders and there is limited outdoor seating only due to the state and county’s latest health mandate. Valley News/Tony Ault photo
Alisha Piatt hugs her friend Rachel Clark during an outdoor lunch at Menifee’s Carnitas Express Mexican Restaurant. Both agree that the required face masks and social distancing orders in Menifee are “ridiculous.” Valley News/Tony Ault photo

“Our business hasn’t changed at all. It is exactly the same,” Valerie Marquez said, looking at a long line of cars at the drive-up, but all the outside tables were cordoned off. “Everybody always has to get their cup of coffee.”

Customers were allowed inside the café only to pick up their takeout orders.

Panera Bread’s franchise in the Menifee Countryside Marketplace at Haun and Newport roads had cars lined up for the takeout window all the way onto the Marketplace’s main drive indicating no loss of business.

BJ’s Brewhouse in the Marketplace, while having no indoor dining service, filled their outside sheltered patio area tables with a steady flow of customers coming and going. Each table was cleaned, and servers wore masks and plastic gloves.

Customers filling the tables outside of Carnitas Express Mexican Restaurant at Bradley and Newport roads enjoyed their meals, but everyone interviewed said they were not happy with the governor’s latest orders.

Alisha Piatt, with her family and friends, was eating outdoors at Carnitas Express. Piatt said the mandates are “ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. It is awful. The kids ought to be in school.”

This sign, posted by the Menifee Chamber of Commerce in front of the True-Value Outdoor Living Center at Newport Road and Bradley Street, urges people and residents to shop locally. Valley News/Tony Ault photo
The stand in front of BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurant in the Menifee Marketplace provides outdoor dining services. Tables are spread out and sanitized after each use. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

She called the mandate for outdoor dining “weird.”

“It’s weird. It’s like in a foam with everybody’s mask on,” she said.

She urged me to take mine off.

“Take it off. It doesn’t matter,” Piatt said.

Rachel Clark, one of her friends from Quail Valley, said, “It’s different for sure. Not what we are used to and out of the norm. I think it’s unnecessary.”

Josh Piatt said, “It’s complete nonsense. Your body naturally fills up with immunities like viruses, and whatever diseases are around. You do not need to wear a mask, you know.”

Tony Ault can be reached by email at