NAPA (KPIX 5) — Napa County moved further into Stage 2 of reopening Wednesday morning, allowing dine-in customers at restaurants for the first time since the coronavirus shelter order went into effect over two months ago.
Those restaurants will have plenty of safety guidelines to follow as outlined by the state and county.
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The restaurants that were able to jump on the news announced by Napa County officials on Tuesday have definitely been doing their homework. While the new rules are not difficult to abide by, it did take a lot of work and planning to be ready so quickly.
Baris Yildiz, the owner of Napas Ristorante Allegria, said when the news about in-person dining broke Tuesday, the phone started ringing off the hook.
“People just keep calling, trying to make reservations all day,” said Yildiz. “We cannot wait till we’re open tonight. It’s going to be like a grand opening.”
The restaurant spent the past week preparing for the modified reopening, spacing out tables, implementing new rules for staff and stocking up on cleaning supplies.
Napa County is following the state’s guidance for dine-in seating, requiring restaurants to obey a laundry list of 60 new rules.
Some of the more noticeable things customers will see include restaurants prioritizing outdoor seating, using pre-roll utensils in napkins and disposable or digital menus and having customers wait in their cars for their tables.
All bar areas will remain closed off during this stage of reopening as well.
Ristorante Allegria is well suited because of its large patio. Because the restaurant lost so many of their indoor tables due to social distancing requirements, they will also extend seating out onto the plaza.
“We’ll be putting a few tables out there. Just because we’re losing call probably 60% of the dining room inside,” said Yildiz.
On the first day of the new Stage 2 rules in Napa, most places KPIX 5 visited were open, but not ready for indoor seating, including Nation’s Hamburgers, Starbuck’s on First Street and the Buttercream Bakery and Diner.
Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company said they might open on Wednesday, while the managers at Gott’s Roadside thought maybe Thursday or Friday.
Don Perico won’t have sit-down dining for another two weeks. But the Golden Bagel Cafe was ready for customers Wednesday morning.
Owner Daniel Morris said it was a lot of work, but worth it.
“The first month in particular, our sales were down 80 percent, said Morris. “We were able to bring it up recently to 40 or 50 percent, so I’m hoping with the inside dining we will get more.”
Other areas of Napa County were experiencing similarly varied responses to the announcement.
“We are educating the staff, educating the guests,” said Barry Dinsmore, operations manager at Oakville Grocery. “And we’re ready to start putting out our tables and chairs.”
For the first time in two months, Oakville Grocery customers could enjoy their lunches on site today. A small but significant step for a part of California that relies on bringing people to the table.
“It is time,” Dinsmore said. “It is time to keep opening the valve up a little bit more and more.”
But like so many other reopening steps across California and the Bay Area, not everyone is racing to adopt the new rules.
“Yeah, we’re being cautious,” said Daniel Villasenor at St. Helena’s Villa Corona. “It’s not the same world that we were in two months ago.”
Villasenor said the complexity of making his dining room work has convinced him to stick with takeout for the foreseeable future.
“It just doesn’t make sense for us to open up the dining room yet,” he explained. “It’s not going to be a pleasant dining experience, if you can call it that.”
That raises another question: What do diners have an appetite for right now?
“As much as I want everything to come back to normal I’m not dining to dine inside,” said a St. Helena resident named Michelle as walk downtown. “But I feel like from everything I’ve read, what they say about well ventilated spaces, so I’d probably be more inclined to try dining outside at a restaurant.”
Oakville Grocery sees their outdoor space as an advantage.
“We expect by Friday that we will be able to see customers safely,” said Dinsmore. “We’ve got the full dining restaurant plan here that we are implementing.”
As more establishments start seating customers, they’re expecting more traffic on the highway.
“The more and more that it opens up, in a safe way, the more that we’re going to see more and more guests come to the valley” said Dinsmore.
Napa County is leading the way as the Bay Area inches slowly back to normal.
Napa wineries are still waiting for word on when they can reopen, as those businesses are part of Stage 3.
Neighboring Sonoma County is expected to ask the state to tweak its phase two reopening plan to include wineries and tasting rooms.
Wilson Walker contributed to this report.