November 7, 2023
(Riverside, CA) — In Riverside County, with a homeless population of almost 4,000 people living on the streets, many restaurants and convenience stores have been forced to take safety precautions by banning outdoor dining and closing early. The resulting financial fallout has impacted many businesses.
Raising Cane’s fast food chicken finger meals restaurant located on Magnolia Street is one of the businesses affected. Last summer, the restaurant permanently closed its outdoor dining to prevent homeless people loitering around the facility, taking over the patio tables, and harassing customers. Markus Zertuche, 21, an assistant restaurant leader at Raising Cane’s spoke about how the homeless emergency is impacting the restaurant.
Q. Has this homeless crisis affected your business?
A. I would say, at some point it definitely has, especially during our nighttime customers not really feeling the safest with that many homeless people around.
Q. What measures have been taken?
A. We’ve done things like minimalizing possible amenities for them to be able to come to the restaurant. So we don’t give out free water cups to the homeless. Our restroom codes are only for our paying customers. We removed all of our patio chairs and tables.
Q. When did you make the decision to ban outdoor dining and lose seating for 48 customers?
A. We made that call a month and a half ago to minimize the homeless situation of them sitting on our patio.
Q. Did banning outdoor dining represent a loss for the restaurant?
A. I would say yes and no. No, because many of our customers are regulars and they haven’t stopped coming to our restaurant, and yes, because on weekends when our restaurant is packed, not having outdoor dining causes long waits for our customers.
Q. What have been the responses of the customers?
A. We just let them know that we took precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our customers and crew by removing the outside patio and limiting the amount of homeless and potential dangers that could come to them.
Q. Have you gotten any assistance in handling the situation from the local government?
A. It’s like a hit or miss; sometimes they act like they are really involved and sometimes they don’t call us back or don’t show up at all, and our restaurant has to take care of the affecting situations caused by the homeless.
Q. What do you want the local government to consider?
A. Maybe there’s something that we can partner up on to raise funds to help these people get off the streets. Find a way to bring stability to their lives. Also for the safety of the residents in Riverside, make sure that we feel safe every single time that we walk around without threat or any type of danger posed by these people that have taken over the streets.
This conversation was edited for clarity and brevity purposes.