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Coronavirus Closures Put Economic Strain On Los Angeles Restaurants, Small Businesses

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Step into Casa Vega in the past, and you may run into some famous faces. In fact, Quentin Tarantino shot parts of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" at the historic Sherman Oaks restaurant.

"Right here is Marlon Brando's both," said owner Christina Vega. "Over here, we have where Sandra Bullock sits."

But the real stars have always been the staff -- since the doors opened more than 60 years ago by Vega's father.

"I think the longest we survive on this is two-weeks," Vega said."

She's had to lay off most of her employees because Los Angeles' no dining-in rule meant to slow down the spread of coronavirus. The take-out only policy is wiping out work hours.

"Typically, we're about 60-plus employees and we are right now about five," she told CBSLA's Jeff Nguyen. "It's devastating."

The restaurant is hoping that takeout and new curbside service will keep the business running until dine-in service can resume.

Casa Vega isn't the only L.A. staple that's been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Handel's Homemade Ice Cream in Northridge, the owners hope curbside service will to save jobs -- one scoop at a time.

"We've never experienced something like this," said Bill Wagner, store manager. "We've been open here at this location for about a year and a half, and even our first month in business we did better than we'll do this last month."

Even some coffee shops won't allow patrons to go inside to pick up their orders.

At Casa Vega, some of the staff have worked here well before Christina Vega was born. With rent due in a matter of days,  she's got to make some tough decisions about who goes and who stays.

On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors issued a moratorium halting all residential and commercial evictions amid the coronavirus outbreak, effective until May 31.

Still, a moratorium on evictions may not be enough to keep Casa Vega and other L.A. businesses afloat after taking such an economic hit.

"It's a brutal business, the restaurant industry," she said. " And the littler you are the more brutal it is."

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