Dining Alfresco: Carlsbad Eateries Quickly Adapt to Changes Amid Covid-19

August 10, 2020

Navigating the ever-changing state health orders has been a constant challenge for Carlsbad business owners, but they all agree on one thing: The quality of the products and service remains five stars.

Roberto Vigilucci of fine dining eatery Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse, Brandy Cutbirth of Leap Coffee, and Mat Robar of brewery Pure Project, each said they’ve been forced to overcome hurdles but remain devoted to their missions.

Vigilucci, whose beloved restaurant has established a regular customer base, said he overcame many obstacles transitioning into an outdoor-only space at both his restaurants in Carlsbad. With the city’s blessing, he expanded dining into the parking lot to create a garden patio. He also expanded into the street for extra space.

“It’s been a challenge, but because we live in Southern California, people love being outdoors,” Vigilucci said. “Carlsbad has done a great job expediting all the permits and removing the red tape. They understand business owners.”

Vigilucci said guests can still expect their favorite meals in a relaxing environment despite tighter dining restrictions.

“People expect to go to a place and feel safe,” Viggilucci said. “We are doing that by catering to social distancing orders, cleaning constantly, and so forth. They will know when they come to us that they are being taken care of.”

Brandy Cutbirth of Leap Coffee echoed Vigilucci’s comments, stating that moving outdoors was a challenge, but the city quickly expedited her permit request. Today, coffee lovers can enjoy a fine cup of specialty brew in a quiet, safe space, Cutbirth said.

A hostess greets guests at Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse. Courtesy photo

“We are going above and beyond to take the sanitization to the next level,” Cutbirth said. “We are making each and every guest feel that their safety is our Number 1 priority.”

Just as customers expected before COVID-19, Leap Coffee remains devoted to serving the best cup of brew in town, Cutbirth said.

If it weren’t enough to keep a business afloat amid a pandemic and recession, Mat Robar of brewery Pure Project had the extra task of trying to open his new Carlsbad location amidst changing regulations and circumstances. Pure Project, which opened in July, quickly adapted to state health orders.

“We first opened up with just to-go service and since then, have partnered with local food vendors for dining services utilizing outdoor space,” Robar said. “There are no complaints — we are just happy to be here and be a part of the Village.”

The outdoor dining space at Pure Project. Courtesy photo

Robar said, like other businesses, the City of Carlsbad has been a “refreshing” ally in the pandemic. He also said Pure Project remains true to its goal of being an expert in the beer industry, while providing some of the best taps in town.

“You will find unique and often seasonal local and organic ingredients in a lot of the beer, which serves to give you a sense of place that is often reserved for terroir in wine (the distinct place where a wine comes from),” Robar said.

As Robar grows Pure Project in Carlsbad, he can expect similar support that has kept businesses such as Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse and Leap Coffee thriving.

“In more than 20 years, we have never stopped working because of this great community,” Vigilucci said. “Even when we could only offer to-go meals — a rarity in fine dining — we had regular customers giving us $100 tips because they care about the businesses here. It has been amazing to see what the community has done for us. They are living through the hardships with us.”

The encouragement businesses have received from the community and the city government is the reason why all three owners said they chose Carlsbad and why they remain open, today.

“Carlsbad is that perfect, family town,” Cutbirth said.

Leap Coffee is part of a growing cadre of specialty coffee shops in North County. Courtesy photo

Other Carlsbad restaurants that are currently offering outdoor dining experiences include:

  • Jeune et Jolie
  • 264 Fresco
  • Mikko Sushi
  • Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers
  • Grand Avenue Bar & Grill


The following Carlsbad restaurants have received permits to expand or create outdoor dining spaces:

  • Casero Taqueria
  • Sushi Kuchi
  • Urban Plates
  • Casa De Bandini


“As a city, we understand just how much businesses, especially small, local establishments are struggling right now,” said Matt Sanford, Carlsbad’s Economic Development Manager. “We need to meet them where they are, understand their challenges and help find solutions. We have worked tirelessly with our restaurants and other businesses that are unable to operate in their normal business model, to find creative ways to keep them open. Across all departments, the City of Carlsbad is committed to supporting our business community and residents through this time.”

“We understand that permit processing can be confusing, and regulations often do not account for crises such as the one we are experiencing,” said Jeff Murphy, Carlsbad’s Community Development Director. “It is incumbent upon cities to quickly develop creative solutions that can accommodate business needs and demands during these unprecedented times while protecting the health and safety of the general public. The solutions that have been created so far help accomplish just that.”