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Restaurants In Napa and Sonoma Might Open Their Dining Rooms Next Week

Also: Mill Valley’s Whole Foods is the center of a COVID-19 wave, and more news to start your day

Napa County hopes to reopen restaurant dining rooms, wineries, and tasting rooms as soon as next week
Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties are seeking a waiver to allow restaurant dining rooms to reopen next week

It’s actually happening, folks. Restaurant dining rooms are starting to reopen in California, and though so far, the regions cleared to serve sit-down meals are in smaller, more rural areas, by next week meals might be served to dine-in patrons in Napa and Sonoma.

As of Friday morning, the East Bay Times reports that 20 counties across California have met the milestones required to allow restaurants to expand beyond takeout and delivery. The list largely covers spots low-density enough that cases of COVID-19 were few and far between: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lassen, Nevada, Mariposa, Placer, Plumas, San Benito, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Tuolumne and Yuba counties.

For example, San Benito county only has four active COVID-19 cases across its 62,000 residents, NBC Bay Area reports, when means that dining rooms at restaurants like Hollister’s Grillin and Chillin Alehouse are now entertaining masked guests who are socializing from a distance. “Even though they’re 10-12 feet apart, they’re talking to each other,” G&C’s Chuck Frowein tells NBC. “It’s amazing just to see the mental side of it, and people getting back to normal.”

The coastal town of Carmel is only about 40 miles from Hollister, but it’s in Monterey County, which has yet to reopen. And, yet, that city’s 90-year-old restaurant, the Tuck Box, opened its dining room without permission, Bay City News reports, and remained open even after warnings from the city’s district attorney’s office, local police, and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Jeffrey LeTowt, who’s owned the Tuck Box since 2003, now faces three misdemeanor charges for the early reopening, each of which carry a maximum sentence of a $1,000 fine and/or six months in prison.

Next week, Sonoma, Napa, Solano are also expected to petition the state to allow their dining rooms to reopen, the SF Chronicle reports: Solano and Napa have already filed documents with the state in an effort to prove that they’re ready, and Sonoma’s Board of Supervisors will vote Monday on whether or not to move forward, as well.

It’s unclear if the state will OK any of those counties’ requests, as all have had at least one death from COVID-19 in the last 14 days — statewide regional variance criteria requires two weeks without fatal cases before higher-risk businesses can resume activities. “That indicator cannot be viewed in isolation.” Napa County health officer Dr. Karen Relucio said Thursday in support of the region’s reopening, and city officials say that in addition to restaurant dining rooms, they hope to open wineries and tasting rooms in coming days.

And in other news...

  • Now that local wholesalers are serving regular consumers, restaurants are facing meat shortages and higher prices than ever. Newly-opened steakhouse Palmetto, for example, has a $50, 12-ounce ribeye on its takeout menu that should cost $80 with its hoped-for margins. [SF Chronicle]
  • As a San Francisco Supe, Scott Wiener was known for pushing pro- bar and restaurant legislation. That continued when he became a state Senator, as from Sacramento he’s advocated for a far later last call. Thursday he proposed new legislation that would allow ailing restaurants to escape long-term leases and “renegotiate rent where capacity has been slashed due to social distancing.” [Eater LA]
  • San Francisco-based reservation app OpenTable says it expects 25 percent of the nation’s restaurants to close for good. [Bloomberg]
  • Crowds around Lake Merritt have prompted officials to ban food trucks from operating near any of Oakland’s parks. [SF Chronicle]
  • An effort called Good Good Eatz seeks to support small, independent restaurants in Oakland’s Chinatown, Fruitvale and Eastlake neighborhoods. [Berkeleyside]
  • Eight Whole Foods workers across three stores in Marin county have tested positive for COVID-19, with six of those infections centered arounf the Mill Valley location of the grocery store. [East Bay Times]
  • A man was charged in federal court this week for a 2017 robbery and attempted shooting inside a Quality Donuts in Oakland. “Do you want the donut or not?” the Quality cashier reportedly asked the accused. “No, I want money,” he allegedly replied, then fired. [San Jose Mercury News]
  • When Pliny the Younger dropped in February, its fans brought an estimated $5.1 million to Sonoma County. [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]