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South Lake Tahoe Restaurant Workers Among Thousands Displaced by Raging Caldor Fire

Plus, Le Marais Bakery says it’s closing in the Marina due to a tax hike and more intel

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Massive Caldor Fire Threatens Lake Tahoe Area Of California Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

Welcome to a.m. Intel, your bite-sized roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.

As we approach the Labor Day holiday, the Caldor Fire continues to burn throughout northern California, threatening more than 34,000 structures and forcing the evacuation of thousands who live in South Lake Tahoe, CNN reports. And while many people recognize Lake Tahoe as a popular and glamorous tourist destination — especially for Bay Area residents looking to escape the city for a long weekend — the Reno Gazette Journal points out that many evacuees are blue-collar workers like Yasmin Mesfin, who’s lived in South Lake Tahoe since 2016 and works at Whole Foods, and Jeff Cowen, a 17-year South Lake restaurant owner.

Cowen told the RGJ the mass evacuation meant increased visibility for the area’s year-round residents, about 13 percent of whom live below the poverty line, telling the paper the streets were crowded with a “parade” of cars owned by career cooks, servers, and other service workers. “They were rusty, beat-up cars overflowing,” he said. “Usually, they are hidden in amongst the tourism traffic, they are hidden amongst the businesses.” The RGJ cites census data that indicates the median household income in the city of just over 22,000 people is $49,390 despite the fact that “the median house value is $403,600 — more than eight times the median household salary.”

With the wildfire pushing ever-closer, officials have warned out-of-town visitors to stay away from the area, which usually plays host to thousands of tourists over the Labor Day weekend. This year, the smoke-filled streets are empty and many restaurants sit dark. Breeana Cody, an employee at McP’s Taphouse Grill, told the paper the holiday weekend is usually a busy one for restaurants: “September until the end of the year is pretty good but Labor Day weekend is really our big hurrah.”

South Lake Tahoe city remains in immediate danger from the fire, which as of Wednesday is 16 percent contained and has burned 191,607 acres since it began on August 14, though firefighters successfully saved the 100-year-old Camp Sacramento and the relatively affordable Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort. A handful of local treasures are still threatened, however, including Camp Richardson (and the popular ice cream shop located there) and Emerald Bay (and Vikingsholm, the replica Scandinavian castle nestled in its center). [CNN/Reno Gazette Journal/Tahoe Daily Tribune]

  • Utzutzu, the East Bay sushi spot from Chikara Ono (Dela Curo, Delage), has reopened, per a post on the restaurant’s Instagram. Reservations are open now on Resy for the prix fixe omakase dinners.
  • Following an “overwhelming number of requests” to explain the closure of its flagship Marina location, Le Marais Bakery posted on Instagram a lengthy letter about the situation. Signed by owner Patrick Ascaso the open letter says he decided to close the location because “the bakery could not support the increased tax bill” given by the building’s new owner.”
  • Obour Foods, which farmers market-goers will likely recognize as a source for hummus and tahini, is opening its first brick-and-mortar location at the Ferry Building, the SF Business Times reports. Find it across from Acme Bread and open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. [SF Business Times]
  • A driver who killed a pedestrian in Berkeley in late July was delivering food for DoorDash when the collision took place, per a story from Berkeleyside. The family of the pedestrian is now filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which indicates the driver also attempted to flee the scene of the crime — hitting the pedestrian a second time in the process. [Berkeleyside]
  • And finally, Guy Fieri fans will be happy to hear the spiky-haired Bay Area resident has teamed up with Marin musician Sammy Hagar to launch Santo Tequila, which bills itself as being responsible for “the world’s first mezquila.” Cheers. [Marin Independent Journal]