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Bruno’s bistro closes as owners focus on second restaurant in northeast Santa Rosa

Bruno’s, the cozy McDonald neighborhood bistro in Santa Rosa that charmed Sunday brunchers and weeknight regulars for more than a decade, has closed.

According to co-owner Linn Bruno, the Fourth Street building is for sale, though at a price beyond what she and chef/husband Rick Bruno could justify spending during this economically precarious time for small businesses.

The 38-seat restaurant has been shuttered since April and the couple has spent their time focused on a second restaurant, Ricky’s Eastbound in Skyhawk Village, which remains open for patio seating and takeout.

“We always wanted to own that building, and we were in negotiations, but numbers were just too far off,” said Linn Bruno. Though she said the closure isn’t directly due to the pandemic, the chaos and uncertainty of how restaurants will survive a post-coronavirus world that requires social distancing played into their decision to let go.

“You’re in this because it’s in your blood. It’s what we know and this is our life, but we’ve seen so much change in the industry over the last 13 years,” said Bruno, who met her husband while working at Gary Danko in San Francisco. “We rely on a large number of people coming in to eat. I just don’t know how restaurants are going to come out of this,” she said.

The Brunos are among many restaurateurs grappling with drastic changes to food service amid the pandemic, unsettling an already tenuous business. Paired with imposing regulatory hurdles, insurance hikes, rising food costs, fires and power outages, the balances have tipped.

“People think owning a restaurant is so fun and everyone thinks you’re rich and ‘killing it’ because you’re busy one night, but even the biggest restaurants are walking a tightrope. Restaurants have to get a break because everyone feels like they’re one lawsuit, one missed permit from losing it all,” Linn Bruno said.

Most of the 10-person staff from Bruno’s will be absorbed into Ricky’s Eastbound.

The Skyhawk restaurant, which is heavily reliant on families from the neighborhood, has sustained itself with family-style to-go meals focused on approachable, comfort food.

“We’ve been forced to get off the merry go round, and it’s been a real eye-opener. There’s a wave of sadness, but some relief all wrapped in. In the long run, maybe it’s just good to simplify our lives,” Bruno said.

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