We spoke to Bobak Roshan of Demitasse, whose Los Angeles cafés have remained open as takeaway-only throughout the entirety of the pandemic.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Cafe Demitasse
Last week, we began the conversation of what continuing operations may look like for businesses that have had to restructure since the onset of COVID-19. As vaccination distribution trudges along, we will eventually see which elements of the coffee world may return—either with new protocols or a different version of “back to normal.” Today, we hear from Bobak Roshan (he/him), owner of Cafe Demitasse, whose two cafés in Los Angeles remained open as takeaway businesses during this time.
Barista Magazine: During COVID-19, Los Angeles has shifted several times between allowing indoor dining and banning it. How has Demitasse chosen to operate throughout most of the pandemic, and what kind of response have you received from patrons?
Bobak Roshan: We still aren’t allowing any indoor dining. The safety of our staff was our priority and even though we were (and are) allowed to have some dine-in, my staff voted against opening up the dining room at 25% capacity or whatnot, so we just kept it closed. Our patrons mostly understood and were happy just to have a place to get coffee and hang out outside. It helps that both our cafés have large patios.
On April 13, all Californians became eligible to get vaccinated—did your baristas get any priority before this on their vaccinations? Have you made it a requirement for baristas to get vaccinated?
We haven’t made it a requirement. I’m not sure that we will. But we closed our shop early on two different days so that they could all go and get vaccinated. Food and beverage workers were allowed to get vaccinated earlier than the general public so most of my staff jumped on it as soon as it was available to them.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has made a declaration that the economy and the state of California will reopen by June 15. Is Demitasse planning to align with this mission along with opening indoor facilities? Why or why not?
That’s such a “depends” answer. Probably, but I can’t say that for certain. If the majority of my staff still don’t feel comfortable with loads of people sitting indoors, then we’ll probably limit the amount of indoor seating we allow. It’s also not clear to me yet what that means. For example, right now we can technically have 50% of our indoor seating, but all the tables need to be eight feet apart. What that means practically for us is … two tables. Our shops are small, and so even if they allowed 100% capacity but still have six-feet or eight-feet requirements, it’s going to severely curtail how many people are allowed inside.
What kinds of signs/news will you need to see to feel safe to open indoor operations?
Low infection rates/high vaccination rates.
What kinds of protocols will you implement to run indoor operations successfully?
It’s hard to say “wear a mask while drinking your coffee” for obvious reasons, so I’m not sure. My guess is that we’ll probably still require staff to stay masked. But if it’s safe enough to have regular ol’ indoor operations all over again, I’m not sure we’d need to have any protocols at all. The CDC is now saying that we probably can’t catch the virus off of surfaces, though we may still only serve drinks in takeout if folks feel better about that. It’s really hard to know exactly what we’ll do.