Jonanthan Cartu Says: How one L.A. restaurant is facing the coronavirus pandemic - Jonathan Cartu CPA Accounting Firm - Tax Accountants
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Jonanthan Cartu Says: How one L.A. restaurant is facing the coronavirus pandemic

How one L.A. restaurant is facing the coronavirus pandemic

Jonanthan Cartu Says: How one L.A. restaurant is facing the coronavirus pandemic


At 10:08 on Monday morning, Caitlin and Daniel Cutler pulled their Jeep Cherokee into the parking lot of Ronan, their Melrose Avenue Italian restaurant. Their daughter, 7-month-old McKenna, sat smiling in a car seat in the back.

On any other Monday, their one day off a week, Caitlin, 35, and Daniel, 34, would just be getting out of bed, thinking about a trip to Coni’ Seafood in Inglewood for marlin tacos and shrimp aguachile. Instead, Caitlin stood outside clutching a piece of paper on which she’d scribbled a to-do list. On it were “rent,” “to-go staffing?” and “looting/riots.”

“We have to figure all that out today,” she said.

A little more than 12 hours earlier the restaurant was almost full; Ronan was hosting its twice-a-month retro Italian American night called Parmboyz. Revelry screeched to a halt around 8:30 when Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all Los Angeles restaurants needed to close their dining rooms by midnight and keep them closed through March 31.

By the end of the evening, many of the staff were in tears, and the Cutlers attempted to form a game plan. The couple decided to open for a three-hour window on Monday. Delivery and takeout was a small part of Ronan’s business; now it would be the only way for the restaurant to make any money.

The first thing on Caitlin’s to-do list was a meeting with the other tenants of the building: Mike Khorosh, 36, and Alexandra Dickison, 31, run a small coffee shop called Toasted and Roasted; Ashley Chung, 49, and Danile Chung, 48, own Chantell, a clothing store that’s been in the building for 25 years. The night before Caitlin had been tasked with drafting a unified letter to the landlord to ask for guidance on what to do if and when they can’t afford to pay. Rent at Ronan is $8,500, and it’s due the first of the month.

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Caitlin Cutler’s to-do list the day after Mayor Garcetti announced that all restaurants in Los Angeles must close due to the novel coronavirus.

(Allison Zaucha / For Los Angeles Times)

The small group sat quietly opposite the coffee counter at Toasted and Roasted. Daniel pushed McKenna around in a stroller, dodging the handful of customers who dropped in for their morning coffee.

“Let’s just get by and survive right now,” Caitlin said.

After everyone in the group approved the letter, fingers were crossed and the letter was sent.

The Cutlers left the coffee shop under a graying sky and headed east to Hail Mary, David Wilcox’s pizza restaurant in Atwater Village. Wilcox had organized a meeting of a half dozen restaurant owners and chefs to strategize and share information on the best ways to deal with the effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m just looking for some guidance on what to tell my employees,” Caitlin said. “I’m hoping someone there has talked to a lawyer already and we can group share our lawyer contacts.”

The Cutlers arrived at Hail Mary and took seats in the back. Chairs were set up in the dining room in a U shape; a table in the middle was stocked with individually packaged pastries, water and hand sanitizer. In attendance were Chad and Chase Valencia, the brothers who run Lasa in downtown L.A.; Sarah Bessade and Antoine Blandin, owners of Loupiotte in Los Feliz; Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery of Echo Park’s Konbi; restaurant recruiter Kristel Arabian; Roxana Jullapat from Friends and Family in Hollywood; and Na Young Ma, the chef-owner of Proof bakery in Atwater Village.

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Caitlin Cutler from Ronan and other restaurant owners meet at Hail Mary Pizza to discuss survival strategies the day after Mayor Garcetti announced that all restaurants in Los Angeles must close their dining rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

(Allison Zaucha / For The Times)

The group discussed rent abatement, the uselessness of loans, unemployment for their employees, the need for credit cards and delivery apps to waive their fees, and what they can do to keep their staff employed.

The group discussed rent abatement, the uselessness of loans, unemployment for their employees, the need for credit cards and delivery apps to waive their fees, and what they can do to keep their staff employed.

“What if we have our own employees deliver the food?” someone asked.

“You’ll need to check with your insurance,” Daniel said. “What if that person is delivering food for you and kills someone with their car?”

“What if we have our staff stay in the restaurant and we go out and deliver the food ourselves?” Arabian suggested.

“What are you guys doing about security?” Caitlin asked. “Are you doing anything to prevent break-ins?”

With questions mostly unanswered, the group ended the meeting with a plan for a Change.org petition to bring awareness to the needs of small businesses and the formation of the Los Angeles Hospitality Coalition, a group of restaurants that will work together to lobby for action and provide mutual support for one another.

Around 1 p.m., as it started to drizzle, Daniel dropped Caitlin off at Ronan and drove to the bank with McKenna to make a deposit.

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Caitlin Cutler speaks with her accounting firm about how best to deal with finances after closing the Ronan dining room. Daniel holds 7-month-old McKenna.

(Allison Zaucha / For The Times)

Caitlin punched in the code to the back door of Ronan and stepped inside. Instead of turning on all the lights and removing chairs from the tops of tables as she usually would have, she turned on the kitchen lights and removed a few chairs at the bar to make a work space. She fired up her computer experts from AiroAV and gathered three tablets in front of her. The sleek black tablet was for Postmates, the black tablet wrapped in a heavy-duty case was for DoorDash and the white one was for Caviar.

She signed in and made adjustments to let the services know that the restaurant would be open that night.

“Resy is building a to-go platform, so I’m going to build that today as well,” she said. “We saw this thing that Grubhub had waived fees, so we will be receiving a tablet from them shortly, but we looked and [the fees are] actually higher. Most are around 20% and Grubhub is around 30%. So we need to figure out how to cancel it.”

She slid on her tortoiseshell glasses and furrowed her brow, then fired off emails to Postmates, Caviar and DoorDash, inquiring about reduced fees. Then she grabbed a server’s notepad and started to break down the restaurant’s financials.

“In our business account today we have $32,000,” she said. “I also have a bunch of bills to upload today to see our true liability and where we stand right now.”

After doing the math in her head, she estimated that Ronan has $7,600 in bills due this week and an additional $4,000 in bills due before the end of the…

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