Montecito businesses take financial hit from disaster - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Montecito businesses take financial hit from disaster

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With spotty electricity, no gas, no sewage, and no potable water businesses along East Valley Road may not be damaged, but their bottom line has taken a hit.

Pietro Bernardi owns and runs VIA VAI and Pane E Vino, two popular Italian restaurants along East Valley Road and San Ysidro.  Despite being closed for over 11 days, he's continued to pay his nearly 50 employees.  "We are lucky that we have some money saved away, you know, we at least keep a nice thing on the side but you know it cant go on forever," he said sitting on the restaurants patio.  Every other week he sends out about $45,000 in pay checks, but isn't sure he can do so for a second time in a month without being open.

Between the two restaurants, some of his employees have worked with him for 28 years, "they've been with me practically for all their life. Being here I helped them buying their homes and getting their families started and everything. And now all of a sudden it just like... we don't know."  His biggest fear is loosing "the group of people that we've been together for so many years."

On Friday Bernardi and two employees were finally able to make it into VIA VAI  to begin cleaning out the now spoiled food. Thousands of dollars worth of fresh pastas, dough, produce, and ingredients were thrown out.  The food, he says, can be replaced but he's afraid he won't have residents to feed once the evacuation order are lifted.  "I don't know if many people are going to be around here to really - are going to come back to their homes. when they're going to come back."

During the Thomas Fire, Bernardi's restaurants were closed for 10 days and saw a comeback during Christmas and New Years.  Now, well past 11 days of closure there's no solid open date in sight.  "I really hoping that next 10 days to open. next week or so to open.  What the income will be I don't know, that is very very unknown."

Once Bernardi and his employees are able to return, the restaurants will need to be inspected by the Health Department before fully opening.  That won't happen though until they've had water, sewage and gas restored.  

Even after they've cleared a health inspection, they'll need about three days to prepare for service.  And replacing the food, he says, will cost about $10,000.  "It's going to take a few days to prepare, fixing all the fresh pasta fixing all the fresh raviolis and then fixing up all the dough for the pizza it has to stay there for a couple of days to to sit."  But even just cleaning and preparing will give his employees something to do and work towards, he says.

Despite the "heartbreaking" situation, as Bernardi described it, he's incredibly optimistic that the community and Montecito will once again fill his restaurant chairs.

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