With Sacramento County’s recent order prohibiting indoor restaurant dining for at least three weeks, Elk Grove eateries are once again facing challenges.
The county released the order on July 1, after Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that these businesses halt such dining following a surge in the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). A day earlier, 110 Californians died from this disease, and 5,898 new cases in the state were recorded, Newsom said.
Sacramento County was among 19 counties named by the governor in this mandate, due to its rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. The county had a record-high of 269 new cases reported on June 30.
Newsom stressed that restaurants would be allowed to offer outdoor dining, takeout orders and deliveries.
“This doesn’t mean restaurants are shut down,” he said. “It means that we’re trying to take the activities, as many activities as we can – these mixed activities, these concentrated activities – and move them outdoors, which is a way of mitigating the spread of this virus.”
News of the county’s order did not sit well with Raquel Lopez, co-owner of Plaza Del Sol Mexican restaurant.
“It was a punch in the gut,” she said. “It’s brutal and it’s unfair, because I abide by all rules, regulations and take it seriously. This isn’t about politics for me. This is about saving restaurants, saving my employees. They’re the primary bread winners of their families.
“My servers and cooks have been with me 22 years and to lay them off twice was heart-wrenching. I’m absolutely disgusted. Why should we reap the ramifications when we were abiding by all rules and regulations? It’s so unfair.”
Lopez added that she has very limited outdoor seating available, and many customers opt out of dining at her eatery on a daily basis.
“(Customers ask), ‘You guys aren’t having inside dining?’” she said. “‘No, we have three tables outside, but you’re going to get hit by flies.’ Who wants that? I’m embarrassed.”
Lopez added that during the county’s previous shutdown of indoor dining, she lost about 60% of her business. But refusing to have the indoor dining shutdowns close her business due to income losses, Lopez is working many additional hours.
“They will have to unchain me from my doors before I allow anybody to close me down,” she said. “I’m working here morning, noon and night. We are working seven days a week to keep the place open.”
Sunny Padda, co-owner of India Kitchen, mentioned that her business was already struggling before being ordered to cease its indoor dining operations.
“Right now, I can’t do anything,” she said. “I cannot pay my bills or anything. It’s hard for me, because this is my only business. It’s my only money.
“We have lost a lot of money (due to the indoor dining shutdowns). We lost around 80% of our income. It’s been really hard. It’s also been (difficult), because we had to stop doing our buffet in March.”
Vanessa Jones, a manager at Chason’s Crab Stadium, said that she was not surprised by the latest order to temporary eliminate indoor dining.
“We had enough time to actually experience dine-in until they took it back away, so we kind of all expected it anyway to happen,” she said.
Jones added that business was very good at Chason’s before the latest shutdown.
“Actually, I want to say business was probably a little bit better, because everybody was excited to get out of their house,” she said. “But again, we had limited seating during that time, as well.”
Haley Hammond, a supervisor at Pizza Bell on Grant Line Road, said that this business’s operators are thankful to their customers who have continued to dine at this eatery, despite its inability to offer indoor dining.
“It seems to be OK for us,” she said. “We just aren’t able to seat as many people, because our patio is not that large. We (currently can seat) maybe 20 people, max. We could (previously) probably fit a good 50 to 60 people inside and out.”
Hammond added that because of a loss in business, this restaurant’s owner is working on ways to attract more business such as “make-your-own pizzas” and selling boxes of produce to the public.
Jeffrey Adkins, owner of the Sheldon Inn, told the Citizen that his business is fortunate to have a lot of outdoor dining to accommodate the loss of indoor dining due to the order.
“We can spread people out, probably we’re looking at to do 200 people,” he said. “We’re really lucky, because of the whole wedding venue. It’s similar to setting up a wedding. We’re going to place all the tables 6 feet apart.”
Adkins noted that his business experienced much success prior to the recent order.
“When we opened back up, we were actually busier than we were before,” he said. “For some reason customers were coming in.”
With the new order, Adkins hopes he will not see a big decrease in the number of his customers.
“I think (a) challenge is people maybe not wanting to dine outside,” he said. “Our patio is pretty popular, but (outdoor dining) seems to be a problem for a lot of folks. We might miss their business.”
To provide a better dining experience at his restaurant, Adkins had large, water swamp coolers and misters placed on the patio, he noted.
“I’m trying to make people comfortable,” he said.
EG breweries remain open for outdoor service
Last week, it appeared that Sacramento County’s breweries would have been forced to close all on-site services and then return to their former business of only selling beer to-go. They were previously allowed to serve beer to customers in taprooms back in mid-June. On June 29, county public health officials accepted the state’s recommendation to order breweries to temporally end indoor and outdoor service.
A few days later, California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency clarified that the breweries can pour beer to customers on-site, as long as they also purchase food there and they are seated outside. Taprooms must be closed to on-site consumption.
Elk Grove’s Dreaming Dog Brewing Company (2501 West Taron Court) started that service in late May when the state permitted Sacramento County to reopen more businesses, due to the county’s low number of confirmed COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations at the time. Dreaming Dog’s staff said they will return to pouring beer to customers who purchase meals from food trucks in the brewery’s parking lot.
The Waterman Brewing Company (9824 Dino Drive) recently opened a kitchen and started serving food to customers at their outdoor patio. Their staff encourages customers to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
Tilted Mash Brewing (9175 Union Park Way) issued an announcement about the county’s “forever changing guidelines” on July 3 and said that customers can purchase a $5 food voucher with their beer whenever a food truck is available at the brewery.
That brewery’s neighbor, Flatland Brewing Company (9183 Survey Road) joked on Facebook that their experienced matched the name of their new beer, Winding Paths. They began their new partnership with the Pizza Peel business to sell $3 pizza slices that are required for beer purchases.
News Editor Cameron Macdonald contributed to this story.