Merced County Times Newspaper
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Josie’s restaurant in Atwater at crossroads with employees declining to return


Josie’s Mexican American Bar & Grill, a popular restaurant at 1301 Commerce Avenue in Atwater, made a decision last week to decrease the number of days it is open from five days a week to four days a week, and the family members owning and running the business are not happy about it.

Since the pandemic began, the days per week Josie’s is open went from seven to four, but the business still has most of the same bills to pay.

Emma Carreon, Restaurant Manager whose mother-in-law is owner Josie Sanchez, told the Times, “Pre-pandemic, we were open seven days a week.

“Then we went with five days a week, and our family members were working 70 hours a week.

“We didn’t mind doing that and we were used to it, but it’s like a feeling of helplessness that you’re putting in all you’ve got and it’s not enough because there aren’t more of you.

“Now, we’re open four days a week — Wednesday through Saturday.  The hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Our customers wanted to know why we’re closing Tuesday.

“It’s because we’re faced with the coronavirus pandemic and then another crisis of people not wanting to work.

“We’ve been looking for two cooks and a dishwasher for three or four months.

“We have two line cooks, two ladies making homemade tortillas but one is part-time, and we have one dishwasher, three servers, and the rest is family members.

“We have been advertising for two line cooks, and nobody is coming in to apply.  We had two gentlemen apply, but there were reasons it couldn’t work out.

“We would love to be open, but we can’t expect our current staff to work that many hours.

“Are we going to be able to keep our doors open?

“We have indoors seating at 25 percent capacity and the patio.

“We need cooks.  If we had two more cooks, then we could distribute our staff and it would be easier to run things.

“When we were staying open five days a week, Josie would come in and do a lot of cooking all day every day, making tamales, a huge batch of carnitas, and more, and she helped with bussing tables and getting drinks, whatever was needed.

“We were running.  My husband, Hugo, was cutting meat, getting ready for the day, bagging orders, serving tables.

“And I was setting up the front because we have no bartender, and getting the whole bar stocked because I’m the only bartender.  Also, I was doing to go’s, serving tables, cashing out, and keeping track of the list.  It’s a lot.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government approved legislation extending Federal unemployment benefits.  The legislation continues the Federal increase for all unemployment benefits, which adds $300 to each week of benefits, through September 4, 2021.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) are extended up to 29 weeks through Sept. 4, 2021.

The federally funded FED-ED is being continued through Sept. 11, 2021, providing up to 20 weeks of benefits.

Carreon told the Times, “I’ve heard some workers on EDD benefits make $500 a week because no matter how much you qualify for from EDD you get an extra $300 every week.

“People don’t want to get off the supplemental EDD.

“The extra EDD benefits end in September, and we’re hoping we can hold on until then.

“I feel that there are people abusing it and that’s very unfortunate because it’s putting businesses in jeopardy of not being able to survive.

“We have to pay our full lease, our insurance, we’re still running our refrigerators, and there are things that are full price no matter if you close more days or not.

“We’re still paying for the bar that was closed half of the year.

“We would have one bartender for eight customers, and the bar has food also. We could use it, but we would only have two ladies in the back making all the orders. We want to provide the level of service the customers are used to and deserve.

“We have not opened the bar for letting customers in, but it’s used for making drinks.

Carreon exclaimed, “We’re not the only restaurant going through this. Businesses are closing and changing their hours and this is affecting everybody as far as restaurants go!”

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