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Hundreds of Wine Country Restaurant Jobs Lost in Waves of Wildfires

Also: San Mateo sets up a restaurant-targeting strike force, and more news to know today

Bottles are piled up in a destroyed tasting room and winemaking building at La Borgata Winery and Distillery after the LNU Lightning Complex fire burned in Vacaville, Calif., on Thursday, August 20, 2020
Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Welcome to p.m. Intel, your midday roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news from publications near and far. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.

  • In a comprehensive look at job rates across the Northern California communities hit by wildfires in 2017 and 2018, the Bay Area News Group discovered that while some industries — like construction — actually came back stronger than ever, the bar and restaurant industry still hasn’t regained the jobs lost three years ago. For example, 900 restaurant and winery jobs were lost in the October, 2017 blazes, and by late 2019, only 400 of those positions had returned.
  • Workers at Oakland’s Equator Coffees walked out last month, saying via Instagram that “as women of color, we have experienced a company climate at Equator that has ranged from negligent to hostile toward us when we have voiced our needs and communicated ways Equator could better support us.” While workers declined to speak with Berkeleyside, Equator co-founder Hellen Russell says that “the walk-out came on the tail end of a recent Equator town hall” and followed “conflict amongst the baristas.” “There’s a lot of pain. People are in pain,” Russell says. “Obviously, the three folks who left were in a lot of pain.”
  • The San Francisco Business Times just dropped a special issue on “the struggles Black-owned businesses can face in seeking capital to grow.” Relevant to our interests are this piece on how Brown Sugar Kitchen founder Tanya Holland funded her restaurant, why Eko Kitchen’s Simi Adebajo decided against borrowing money to rebuild after a fire destroyed her business, and how Sextant Coffee Roasters founder Kinani Ahmed saved his business during the pandemic.
  • San Mateo County has launched a “COVID-19 Compliance Unit,” ABC 7 reports, an agency that will investigate complaints about restaurants and other businesses that fail to follow health orders.
  • A shuttered Sacramento Starbucks has been reborn, VegNews reports, but this time it’ll be location number three of a local vegan burger chain called Burger Patch.
  • Writing for reservations company Resy, food journalist Jonathan Kauffman says that Chinatown tasting menu spot Eight Tables, with its set-in nooks that keep tables of diners separate from one another, might be “the future of fine dining.”
  • The SF Chronicle is hitting the pandemic pop-up beat this week, with pieces on former Nopa pastry assistant Raquel Goldman’s dessert hustle Norte 54, and high-end private chef Azikiwee Anderson’s pivot to found a home bakery called Rize Up.
  • After a seven year court battle, Guerneville bar Rio Nido Roadhouse has triumphed against a litigant well-known for filing lawsuits alleging Americans with Disabilities Act violations. [Associated Press]
  • House of Prime Rib is officially open, serving 68 people at a time inside its vast set of dining rooms. [KTVU]