For recently reopened bars and restaurants, Newsom's rollback is a huge blow
VALLEJO, Calif. - For bars and restaurants that recently resumed serving indoors, Gov. Gavin Newsom's rollback is a huge blow.
Of the 19 counties affected, three are in the Bay Area.
But Santa Clara and Contra Costa never actually moved ahead with indoor dining, so the effect for them is nil.
Solano County, however, has spent three weeks restoring business, only to be ordered to halt.
"Everybody was texting us, 'did you hear what the governor said, did you hear what the governor said?" recounted Kent Fortner, founder of Mare Island Brewing in Vallejo.
Wednesday's lunch crowd at the ferry building brewpub suddenly had to gobble up or take their plates and pints to outdoor tables.
Fortner says he was stunned at the about-face: "I mean we just picked ourselves up off the floor and it's like getting kicked in the shins."
The order means Solano County eateries must revert to patio dining and take-out, for the next three weeks, possibly longer.
Most had worked hard to re-open with COVID-19 protocols in place and were thrilled to welcome back staff and customers.
"We had to get all our employees back from unemployment and they were starting to get in the groove, people were remembering to wear masks, people were starting to understand the whole situation," said Fortner.
The reversal came abruptly, and now many restaurants regret that they ordered too much food, as they are forced to scale back.
"It sucks, it sucks, we've already gone through this once," said Kyle Barraza, owner of Mankas Grill in Fairfield. "No warning, no warning at all, just phone call after phone call, about the immediate closure of indoor."
Since it re-opened, his restaurant has been serving about 120 people nightly, over a five to six-hour span.
Without the dining room, he can only seat three or four parties outside.
And Barraza worries that the closure of indoor dining casts a cloud.
"For tonight's reservations, people started canceling and we've had a few no shows, I think people are going to be scared to go out again."
The winemaker located next door intends to share its patio space to help support the restaurant.
"The pandemic is definitely causing a lot of fear, and rightfully so," said Pam Valdivia, General Manager of Vezer Family Wines.
Under the new restrictions, wineries cannot serve indoors either, but most are already choosing to leave tasting rooms empty and pour outdoors.
Vintners have more options because they generally have more outdoor space.
But Valdivia worries the new setback to the hospitality industry hurts everyone.
"This will devastate small businesses and will cause a lot of restaurants to close their doors," she said.
After working to re-open with strict precautions, proprietors wonder how many more times they might close, then reopen, only to repeat it all over again.
Bambino's Italian Restaurant in Vallejo has a cavernous interior, but only a few outdoor seats.
It will now pursue a permit to spread extra tables on the sidewalk.
But for the time being, chairs are upended on tables, and staffers are being sent home.
"It's very confusing for everyone, customers, staff, management," said Bambino's Manager Hosnia Hasani.
"The cooks in the kitchen are confused and everybody's just taking it one day at a time."
Restaurateurs note, even the best outdoor set-up can't compensate for losing indoor tabs.
And when the weather is cold, windy, or rainy, people won't want to sit outside.
As losses mount, so does the frustration.
"To come out, three days before the July 4th weekend, and say shut down immediately, " said Fortner.
"I don't really understand why indoor dining is getting targeted specifically."
Newsom hinted that other Bay Area counties might also be ordered to rescind some of their indoor activities in the days ahead if infection rates continue to climb.