Nevada County adjusts to new restaurant and bar guidelines
Nevada County restaurants and food-serving bars and breweries have re-shaped their services this week after it was announced Monday that the county had been moved to the purple, or “widespread”, COVID-19 risk tier — the most severe in the four-tier system.
Restaurants, previously permitted to seat dine-in patrons at up to 50% indoor capacity, can only do outdoor seating under the purple tier restrictions. Bars and breweries which serve food are operating under the same restrictions, and those that don’t serve food have been required to close.
On adjusting to the new guidelines, Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant manager Tracy Lapierre, said, “We’re just doing what we can, praying that we get more and more to-go orders as this continues, and hopefully this doesn’t continue for much longer.”
The restaurant, she explained, is not well equipped for outdoor seating as the weather gets colder going into winter. “It’s going to be a hit-or-miss when we can do the outdoor dining, depending on the weather,” said Lapierre, adding that Tuesday and Wednesday had been to-go only.
She said that, as they continue to rely more heavily on takeout order volume, she and the restaurant’s owners are focusing on bringing attention to the restaurant, both through social media and radio advertisement, methods she said have driven some community engagement.
“I just don’t want people to forget that we’re here — just because you can’t dine in doesn’t mean you can’t have the wonderful food that we have,” she said.
Randy Hodges, owner of Humpty Dumpty Kitchen, said Wednesday that, while the restaurant was only doing drive-thru and to-go orders in accordance with the new guidelines, he was concerned other restaurants were not doing the same.
“I definitely don’t want to be a part of spreading the virus, but I don’t know if restaurants are spreading it,” he said, adding that his uncertainty as to whether others would also come into compliance with the guidelines made him feel unsure of how to proceed.
Hodges said staff hours had been reduced at the restaurant due to low volume. Takeout and drive-thru, he said, usually make up around 20% of the restaurant’s volume, although they had increased slightly with the shift to only offering those services. He said he is looking into setting up outdoor seating.
“Right now, especially with the holidays coming up, this is when businesses like ours make all of our money — the week before Thanksgiving through New Years is a really big time that gets us through the later months of winter,” said Kelsey Anderson, taproom manager at Grass Valley Brewing Company.
Anderson said that, while they aim to maintain current levels of staffing unless there is a “really drastic decrease” in business, staff are concerned about their income as they work in a “tip-driven industry.”
“I feel so strongly about supporting and shopping local right now — even though we have to be more strict about where people can sit and having them order food, they can still do any of our beers to-go along with all kinds of (food) options from Roost,” said Anderson.
The brewery and connected restaurant, Roost, she said, have set up large tents outside to improve their outdoor seating — and will soon be installing a more weather-durable aluminum carport, “in an attempt, on the not-rainy nights, to have a cozy place for people to come get a drink and eat food.”
Beth Moore, owner of Wild Eye Pub, expressed that her concern for the business was in large part with the ability to have artists play music for diners. Wild Eye’s musical performances, she said, were a significant draw for customers prior to the pandemic.
Moore said she has communicated with Nevada County health officials and was, as of Wednesday, “trying to find out what the consistent message is from the state and county, that hopefully leaves us a little room to still be able to provide some very careful music outside.”
Their current outdoor seating includes tents she said worked well for shade during summer months, when guests enjoyed a breeze from the creek adjacent to the business. That breeze, she said, is now a negative factor as the weather gets colder, so seating and tents will be moved from the creekside area to a space in the parking lot which will have the Wild Eye building as wind cover.
“We’re absolutely committed to continuing all the regular safety protocols,” said Moore. “Even if the music (guideline) messages don’t match, we’re thankful the safety protocols are science-based, and we’re completely committed to that.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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