Sonoma County restaurants get guidelines to reopen
As soon as he heard the news Tuesday, Kevin Cronin got out his tape measure and started moving tables around.
“I knew it was inevitable we’d have to change our model a little, and we will,” said Cronin, owner of Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. “We’ll make it fun, and good. People want to eat-in restaurants again. I know I do.”
When, exactly, people might be able to sit down to eat in Sonoma County restaurants remains an open question. But Gov. Gavin Newsom gave restaurateurs hope Tuesday, unveiling guidelines that eateries must meet before they are allowed to set their tables for the first time since he imposed a statewide stay-at-home order two months ago.
The 12-page document does not provide a clear timetable for restaurants to reopen their dining rooms. Instead, it lays out a series of steps that must be completed to ensure the pandemic is under control and the safety of customers and employees is protected. Unlike some other state governors, Newsom refrained from setting rigid guidelines to reduce restaurants’ capacity, but instead gave them flexibility to modify dining rooms to create 6 eet of distance between customers at different tables and employees.
“One size does not fit all,” Newsom said Tuesday in a video news conference. “Each restaurant is different and distinct.”
Only seven rural counties — Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Lassen, Nevada, Placer and Shasta — have met the state’s criteria to reopen restaurant dining rooms and other public activity envisioned in Stage 2 of California’s roadmap to recovery from the havoc of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sonoma County is at least two weeks away — and possibly even longer — from winning state approval to reopen dining rooms and a broader swath of the local economy.
For Sonoma County to be granted a state review for reopening, it must have recorded 50 or fewer new cases of COVID-19 in the past 14 days; on Tuesday, it had 105 cases during that period. The county’s public health officer, Dr. Sundari Mase, is also concerned that some skilled nursing homes do not have a 14-day supply of protective equipment and adequate stocks of sanitizer, another of the official criteria.
Most telling, for a county to move deeper into Stage 2, it must have recorded zero COVID-19 deaths in the last 14 days. With Sonoma County reporting its fourth COVID death Monday, it’s clear the county is close to two weeks away, at least, from allowing full-service dining.
Mase said Sonoma County has not applied for a variance to state standards, sounding doubtful it would meet approval with the county falling short of key thresholds.
“The fact that the state has a strict criterion of no deaths in 14 days, I would think that under that criterion, we wouldn’t be opened,” Mase said.
The open-ended timeline has Eleni Magoulas, owner of Pete’s Henny Penny in Petaluma, worried.
“You look forward to the summer months, where business starts to boom, and you rely on that income to get you through the tougher months of January-February-March,” Magoulas said. “And we get business off the freeway from people going to KOAs and campgrounds. Summer, you feel good about it. We’ve already missed a couple major holidays. We missed Mother’s Day, and we’re coming up on Memorial Day.”