Kathleen Hill: Restaurants slowly re-opening under Newsom's rules
Earlier this month, Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County's public health officer, allowed some businesses to reopen for curbside delivery.
Bay Area media reported that all Bay Area counties were basically closed, except for Sonoma and Napa counties.
Yes, a few more cars parked around Sonoma Plaza and unloaded city dwellers who felt the need to get out of their homes and go for a drive to the wine country.
We saw lots of people walking around and through the Plaza, sipping beverages from cups, and picnicking at tables in the park. Most of these visitors were not wearing face coverings, which demonstrates both the benefits to local businesses and the dangers of opening local businesses. A very fine line.
After Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting (all from members' homes) Mase announced that Sonoma County has not met the criteria for re-opening since numbers of new cases of COVID-19 in the county have actually increased and we had one more death from the virus.
So it will be a few weeks at least before Sonoma restaurants can open to sit-down dining. The loosening of the health order will only apply to dine-in eateries, meaning bars and other businesses that serve primarily alcohol will remain closed for the time being.
On Tuesday Gov. Gavin Newsom released his new guidelines for restaurants once they re-open:
All staff and customers must wear face coverings.
Servers and bussers must wear gloves.
Tables must be six feet apart.
Every object and surface in a restaurant that could be touched by more than one person must be sanitized, from door handles and toilets to light switches and credit card readers.
Menus must be disposable.
Cutlery must be wrapped in napkins before placement on tables. Table cloths must be removed after each seating and carried away (with napkins) in a plastic bag.
There is a suggestion of installing Plexiglas between tables (producers are out of stock) and some restaurants are hanging shower curtains instead.
Customers must wait in their cars for their tables to be ready.
Local restaurants won't know how to proceed until Mase evaluates the state guidelines and makes her recommendations.
NBC News in Sonoma last weekend
Saul Gropman and his Café LaHaye became Bay Area television stars last weekend when NBC News came to Sonoma to check out what Sonoma is doing creatively during the pandemic. The cameraman took a few shots of the Plaza and focused primarily on East Napa Street, with lots of words of wisdom from Gropman.
According to Gropman, on Friday 'The NBC anchor stopped by and asked a few questions, then asked if he could call over his cameraman. I think they were looking for open businesses due to the lifting of restrictions that were announced that day.'
Gropman happily suggested to the crew that Sonoma offer the Plaza for an outdoor dining area for Sonoma restaurants and maybe even close the streets around the Plaza as is being done sporadically in Europe and is being seriously considered by the San Jose City Council.
Gropman said he had been thinking about street closures at the beginning of the shutdown since officials had talked about drastically reducing the seat capacity of restaurants upon reopening.
Café La Haye, Della Santina's and Maya are all open for takeout with orange cones and even a little windmill at Maya to designate curbside pickup parking spaces on East Napa Street.
Fig Rig parks at the high school
The Fig Rig is now parked in front of Sonoma Valley High School daily. Offerings include: Kimchi fried chicken sandwich with chili aioli, kimchi and white cheddar; top sirloin burger with Balsamic onions and black pepper aioli; and a fig and arugula salad (each $10); grilled cheese sandwich with tomato confit, blue cheese fries, and herb fries (each $8); and their sea salt chocolate chunk cookies ($3). Order at truck for now, noon to 4 p.m. 20000 Broadway, Sonoma.
Fig Rig owners Sondra Bernstein applied for a temporary use permit from the City of Sonoma several weeks ago, hence the Fig Rig popping up in the high school's bus turnout starting this week.
Restaurants are doing everything they can imagine to create and survive and keep their employees working. Chef entrepreneur Tom Collechio said on MSNBC on Monday that 25 percent of job losses in the United States are losses of restaurant jobs, the largest segment of unemployment claims in the country.
Dine, donate for Popo the Clown
Generations of kids and their parents have enjoyed Popo the Clown, aka Penny Byrd, and her funny party acts, face painting and balloon tricks that she has used to entertain thousands of Sonoma Valley residents. Her Banana Dippers have given a little sweet perspective to farmers markets and fairs.