Every little fee waiver helps, local restaurant owner explains
Yolo County announced in a press release that it launched a restaurant fee waiver program on Feb. 5 to support local businesses who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will help restaurants with paying the fees to renew their Yolo County Environmental Health Division permits.
The press release details that in order to be eligible to apply, restaurants must have current permits from the Yolo County Environmental Health Division and must have paid fees during the permit renewal from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. The business also must have encountered a loss of revenue due to the pandemic that is greater than 25% of gross revenue.
Tara Thronson, the supervisor’s deputy to Yolo County District 2 Supervisor Don Saylor, explained efforts made by Yolo County to assist impacted local businesses.
“Depending on the impact they can qualify for a waiver of 50% or 100% of their fee,” Thronson said via email.
Thronson mentioned that eligible bakeries, bars and restaurants have been sent an email, which includes information about the program and how they can apply. Businesses may also visit Yolo County social media or the press release.
Since businesses in Yolo County are battling to survive due to COVID-19 safety restrictions regarding operation manners, Thronson described how Yolo County searched for ways to provide relief.
“The Board of Supervisors asked Environmental Health and Financial Services to look at what options were available to provide financial relief to restaurants that are struggling,” Thronson said via email.
Kevin Wan, the owner of Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, applied to the fee waiver program and was approved.
Wan explained that Sophia’s Thai Kitchen suffered losses during UC Davis’ Spring Quarter 2020.
“We were down about 46%, which is not that bad—some restaurants are probably down, 60% or 70%,” Wan said.
If a restaurant were to lose over 50% of revenue, they would be able to apply to receive a full fee waiver from Yolo County. Wan shared that their greatest loss was in April and May during strict lockdown orders, when they lost about 40% to 50% of revenue. As of February 2021, they are operating at approximately 30% less than usual.
Wan explained that one of the greatest challenges was following the government’s request to be only open for take out, since most of their orders had previously been dine-in.
“Take-out pre-pandemic was probably only about 10% or 15% of our business,” Wan said.
On top of purely serving customers by take-out, Wan noted a general lack of customers, and he theorized that many people may not feel safe coming in. The volume of customers for take-out was not enough to sustain business operations in the restaurant, Wan commented, especially since they must pay fixed costs, such as rent and utilities.
“Those bills don’t stop coming, even during a pandemic,” Wan said.
Additionally, Wan explained that the ever-changing regulations can be expensive to follow. For example, to ensure that they are following social distancing guidelines, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen spent money on personal protective equipment for the employees.
“We make all those investments, and then six weeks later, we could shut down again,” Wan said.
Wan mentioned how supportive the County’s Department of Environmental Health has been, from providing restaurants with guidance and safety expectations to notifying them when Yolo County falls into a certain tier.
“When a lot of restaurants right now are operating at a loss, every little fee waiver like that is a huge help,” Wan said. “The fee is not insignificant—it’s about $1,000 for just our little restaurant.”
Wan looks forward to seeing UC Davis students filling the streets again once the university reopens for in-person instruction.
“It made us realize how symbiotic the university is to Davis, and how much students make up so much of the character of downtown Davis,” Wan said.
Written by: Ellie Lee — firstname.lastname@example.org