Pictured: The entrance to The Junkyard Cafe in Simi Valley, which reopened Monday, May 25 after a two month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
Loyal fans of The Junkyard Cafe in Simi Valley will not miss their favorite restaurant anymore since it opened up it’s dining rooms on Monday, May 25, after a two-month closure.
“The opening went remarkably well,” said Evelyn Garfield, owner, called The Queen by regulars. “We implemented all the systems that we had thought of, and believe it or not, they all worked.”
The Junkyard installed plastic sheeting between booths and removed half of the tables. Garfield is putting up fencing outside to allow more outdoor dining. “We bleached the restaurant from ceiling to floor.”
Garfield expressed worry about the first forecasts for the restaurant sector. “You kept hearing we were going to be annihilated . . . you can’t plan for a pandemic that would wipe your business overnight.”
She also is aware of the “controversy around this whole thing.” Some see restrictions as “taking away their rights” while others consider reopening “highly irresponsible and that folks who are going out are ruining it for the world. That is kind of the gist of the way I hear it. A lot of people stay neutral and polite, but some get really upset.” Garfield doesn’t want any of her employees to have to police customers who might push back against any of the restrictions. “All of a sudden I am the police. I’m trying to walk through all the possibilities in my head. That is keeping me up at night. I’ve told all my employees that if they run into any situation to bring it to me. I’ll be personally handling any issue.”
But if opening day is any indicator, customers are fine with the new rules.
“The customers were so nice, super fun and positive energy,” Garfield said on Tuesday, May 26. The overall feeling: “We are going to be ok.”
She said prepping to reopen under the rules has been challenging. “There is a long list, things to do required by the county.”
But one gray area is screening guests for symptoms. “I don’t know exactly what that means. I’m not a doctor or a nurse. My employees aren’t either. What if it’s not done accurately? We are trying to do our best and just make sure we are in full compliance. My biggest concern, number one, is the health of our employees. I do not want to screw it up and get shut down.”
Garfield says the Junkyard is a “high volume, eclectic” restaurant that normally seats 250 people. She laid off all but three of her 50 employees, and cut open hours back, but “we’ve been open everyday through the whole thing for takeout and delivery.” Even so, many costs stay the same. “Our normal electricity bill is about $7,000 to $9,000 a month, plus permits, licenses. There was a learning curve of how to do deliveries . . . we have taken on more and more debt.”
Garfield applied for the various loans made available, but the restaurant didn’t get funding. And because it had to lay off most of its employees, it didn’t qualify for the PPE funding that requires 75 percent of employees to be retained. “With an empty restaurant there was nothing for them to do. I want to reiterate that the funding model wasn’t good for restaurants and bars.” She points to a few restaurants in the area that have closed for good as a result of the pandemic.
A positive experience during this event has been the feeling of community support Garfield has experienced. “They are coming out to support us.” Sharon Austel of the Rotary Club of Simi Valley sponsored meals from the Junkyard for all the workers at the Simi Valley Hospital. Others sponsored meals for employees of the Simi Trader Joe’s and the local fire station. “These are the kinds of things keeping us alive.”
Customers showed strong support for the restaurant, even putting up signs around town directing people to the restaurant for takeout or delivery. “Our customers built these wooden signs in the style of my menu that said Junkyard Takeout and Delivery and ‘We miss you like crazy,’ that’s our tagline.” Other signs said “ ‘You’re gonna make it’ and ‘We’re gonna make sure you make it.’ That is the best part of this whole story, the community love,” said Garfield. “And so we did. We’re here.”
The Junkyard Cafe, 3585 Cochran St., Simi Valley, open 7 days a week 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., 805-520-5865, www.thejunkyardcafe.com