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Indoor dining resumes at reduced capacity

For Kelsey Anderson, taproom manager at Grass Valley Brewing Company, indoor seating takes on a greater importance with smoke-filled skies.

“For us, it’s really important with things like smoky skies to offer a safe place to eat inside,” she said. “All of our employees are wearing masks, disinfecting constantly, and adhering to distancing — and in the service industry, what we want is to work with people.”

The brewery, which operates alongside Roost, was able to accommodate around 45 guests in its outdoor and patio seating, and adding 25% of their indoor capacity increases that by 20 seats.



“We are very lucky that we have a pretty big space,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s comments came in the wake of new statewide designations for the reopening of businesses, which put Nevada County in the “substantial” risk tier and allows for indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity. The new rules went into effect Monday.



The 25-percent cap concerns some businesses.

Lena Martignago, co-owner of Sergio’s Caffe in Grass Valley, said the limiting of indoor dining to 25% capacity is greatly concerning as the business faces difficulties staying afloat, expressing in particular that this would be challenging when outdoor seating becomes compromised by weather.

“Twenty-five percent of capacity is not enough for us,” said Martignago. “People don’t make enough money, and it will surely not be enough when it starts raining and snowing. Conditions will be worsening, and with just 25% of capacity, we will not be able to survive.”

In an email Monday, Nevada County public information officer Taylor Wolfe said the county has reached out to its Business Task Force, which includes local businesses, chambers, and business support organizations, with guidance regarding the new guidelines.

The county hosted a COVID-19 business workshop Monday afternoon, and online information on the adjusted guidelines for Nevada County has been updated at http://www.mynevadacounty.com/coronavirus.

Wolfe said that some businesses in the county misunderstood when the new guidance would go into effect and began opening up their indoor dining spaces over the weekend, but that Nevada County Environmental Health reached out to clarify.

“Environmental Health will continue to assist with questions regarding facility’s capacity. They are also available to conduct an on-site visit to assist in creating a workable operational process that protects businesses, patrons and employees,” she said.

MIXED RESPONSE

Tony Norskog — owner of The Wheelhouse on Highway 20, which just opened for business — said he is glad for the opportunity.

“Even those of us who have significant outdoor presence, we’d all be pretty much shut down if there was no indoor dining when we get the cold, rainy, and snowy nights which we will get in a couple of months,” said Norskog.

At Ike’s Quarter Cafe in Nevada City, general manager Adrienne Frazee said the restaurant is unlikely to resume indoor seating until the guidelines become less strict.

“With spacing and getting people in the door and back out, we already spoke to the health department about it, and it’s tricky,” said Frazee. She added that the size of their indoor space could present complications in keeping enough distance between patrons while they wait to use the restroom or as employees access the restaurant’s storage space.

“I don’t think it’s going to change much for us. We’re just going to keep on our path,” she said.

Angie Benerakis, owner of Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro in Grass Valley, said last week that they would also wait for a higher permitted capacity and monitor local COVID-19 case numbers before resuming indoor seating.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.


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