California weather: Rain hurts restaurants, car washes, and more

The seemingly endless parade of storms in Southern California has been disastrous for some businesses: the most infamous, Royal Paper Box Co. in Montebello, which lost its roof last week in a rare tornado.

With more rain forecast for Wednesday, businesses that operate outdoors or rely on in-person customers are bracing for another financial drought. That includes many restaurants and car washes, where workers struggle with significantly lower incomes.

For others, storms can mean an operational boost. If you’ve tried to be called back by a roofer lately, you know what we’re talking about. But delaying outdoor work on sunny days can reduce profits.

“Our small businesses are acutely experiencing climate-related risks over the past four months,” said Kristen Jaconi, executive director of USC’s Peter Arkley Institute for Risk Management, who recently conducted a study with Deloitte which revealed that large public companies are increasingly taking climate action. account of associated risk factors. “Especially in Southern California, we are so unaccustomed to this significant amount of rain.”

Although climate experts are still investigating whether recent storms are linked to global warming, such talks seem distant for people who can’t work because of the rain.

The entire dining room at Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano is outdoors – a boon during the pandemic that has turned into a hindrance this winter. Sales are down 50% this year compared to the same period in 2022, said co-owner and pit manager Daniel Castillo.

“When it rains, people don’t come,” he said. “We cook overnight as the rain falls, cooking outside in some of the worst rain we have ever had. Then the day comes, it’s still raining and we have to sit down with all that food.

The relentless storm cycle has been brutal for much of the restaurant industry, resulting in flooding, outdoor patio closures, last-minute cancellations, construction delays and service disruptions.

Several restaurants on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, including Felix and the Butcher’s Daughter, were forced to close on March 21 during a power outage in Venice.

Mexican restaurant Loreto held its grand opening in Frogtown on Friday after its planned debut had to be pushed back five months due to weather-related construction delays.

LA sister restaurant Cha Cha Cha, usually one of downtown Los Angeles’ most coveted outdoor dining reservations, has seen its business crumble every time it rains, leaving its owners to scramble to make staffing adjustments and quickly move diners inside.

The restaurant estimated a loss of revenue of $500,000 this winter as a direct result of the bad weather.

Harry’s Berries, a popular seller at farmers’ markets in Southern California, canceled plans to sell at the Helen Albert Certified Farmers’ Market in West Hollywood on Monday because it didn’t have enough strawberries to harvest.

“Too many rain losses,” Oxnard Farm said on Instagram. “We are terribly sorry.”

It was the latest setback in a difficult winter for Harry’s Berries, which said in January that storms that month destroyed strawberry beds and irrigation canals, and extremely muddy conditions made it difficult to access to fields to carry out repair work.

Work has become so scarce at car washes in the Southern California region that an emergency relief fund originally created to support workers laid off at the start of the pandemic has been redirected to help workers who have not been paid due to rain-related closures.

Already, 30 families have tapped into the fund, said Andrea Gonzalez, organizing director of the Clean Carwash Worker Center in Los Angeles, which administers the fund.

“The rain has really put a financial strain on LA County car washes,” Gonzalez said. “They struggled to pay their rent, provide food and support their families.”

The center estimates there are about 10,000 car washes in LA County, and car washes only earn $18,000 to $20,000 a year, she said.

Even in the best of times, car wash workers in Southern California are struggling to make ends meet due to low wages. State officials said in November they would penalize Inglewood Shine N’ Brite Car Wash operator more than $900,000 for paying workers well below minimum wage and denying them overtime and breaks. Workers demonstrate in front of the car wash.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Since December, car washers have lost an average of half their usual wages to the rains, Gonzalez said.

Many workers have had to find odd jobs, such as construction work or day labourers, to try to make up for lost income on rainy days. Some car washes won’t open even if the weather is gloomy, Gonzalez said.

“If the business doesn’t open for the day, they don’t get paid,” she said.

This is having an emotional impact on the workers, who entered the center’s offices in distress. And workers fear that with climate change, this kind of unpredictable weather will continue.

“Even though car washers often create their own rainy day fund, it’s not enough to help them out, even in the usual rainy season,” Gonzalez said.

At West Coast Arborists, “nonstop” emergency service calls — including more than 300 on the worst day — in the tree care company’s service territory in California and Arizona mean more business but no necessarily more profits.

“The number of surgeries we’ve had over a three-month period is definitely historic for us,” said Vice President Andrew Trotter, who has been with the company for 40 years. The Anaheim company has felled 2,000 trees since January, with 60-70% of its contracts in Southern California.

“You will only see tons and tons of uprooted trees, not just broken trees. It’s unusual.

However, the sheer volume of calls to emergency services has not necessarily translated into an economic boom for the company of nearly 1,200 employees. Emergency calls sometimes crowd out routine service work, or rains have sometimes made operations hazardous for crews, Trotter said.

“Economically, for our business, it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “At the end of the day, our daily income is almost the same as before the storms. It’s a kind of give and take.

The rainy and windy weather also kept the lawn maintenance and tree removal crew busy at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

About 10 trees fell a month ago, and by then the lawns were so saturated the cemetery closed for a day, said Antoinette Lou, spokesperson for Rose Hills. Since then, the cemetery has preemptively removed another 10 trees over 50 years old, she said.

Will the cemetery be prepared for the rains this week?

“Removing some of the trees that we identified as potential hazards really helped,” Lou said. “I think we’re doing well there, tree-wise.”

Three 1,500 gallon galvanized steel tanks at a manufacturing facility.

Three 1,500 gallon galvanized steel metal tanks at a manufacturing plant in downtown Los Angeles are used to irrigate a native garden by Terremoto Landscape.

(Greywater body)

When the rainstorms begin, Leigh Jerrard’s company, Greywater Corps, begins to receive calls about its rainwater harvesting systems.

“This year has definitely been more than previous years,” he said.

Based in Glassell Park, Greywater Corps designs and installs systems to capture rainwater – often from roofs – and reuse it in gardens. A 1,000 square foot roof will capture about 600 gallons of water from one inch of rain, Jerrard said.

The company’s systems typically range from 500 gallon tanks to 5,000 gallon tanks and even up to 10,000 gallon tanks.

“All of these tanks are full right now and overflowing,” he said. “It was such an onslaught.”

Rainwater storage tanks typically cost around $2 per gallon, but cheaper options such as repurposed shipping cubes called intermediate bulk containers can be found on Craigslist for around $150 and hold 275 gallons of water. water, Jerrard said. His company also runs workshops to teach people how to go the DIY route.

Although plastic tanks are less expensive, the sky is the limit for more expensive options. A 5,000-gallon galvanized steel tank would cost about $30,000, including parts and labor, Jerrard said. Underground storage tanks can cost around $10 per gallon and easily exceed $200,000 with the cost of excavation.

But the simplest and cheapest rainwater catchment systems don’t even need an expensive storage tank, he said. A simple drainage pit will do.

“We’re trying to keep the rain off the streets,” Jerrard said. “If you can keep it in the landscape and allow it to seep into the earth, that’s a real win.”

Los Angeles Times

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