Restaurants approved to provide partial inside services
Restaurants in Santa Barbara County got the OK to welcome a small number of customers back inside to dine, restoring a slight sense of normalcy for the businesses.
Per the Health Officer Order that went into effect on Wednesday, restaurants, along with places of worship, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums, may now operate indoor services at 25% capacity, and gyms and fitness centers at 10% capacity.
However, bars, breweries, distilleries and family entertainment centers are still restricted to outdoor operations.
The gradual reopening is part of the county moving up to the red tier, the second highest tier according to the California Department of Public Health.
This small step allows for The Cruisery in the 500 block of State Street to reopen their bar in the back of the restaurant, called “Unbearable,” at 5 p.m. today, after being closed for three months.
“We’re probably down 30 to 40% compared to where we would be,” said The Cruisery owner Aron Ashland. “I think this may give us a chance to get back to where we were.”
He told the News-Press the 25% capacity allows the restaurant to utilize 14 tables, all six feet apart. The Cruisery’s staff had their indoor operations ready by Wednesday evening.
“Most people are still probably going to choose outside if they get the opportunity,” the owner continued. “It’s probably only really going to help when TV events are on and when the weather changes.”
He added that The Cruisery has met pushback on COVID-19 rule enforcement, such as requiring each customer seated at the table to order food, rather than accepting just one food item for the entire table.
“A lot of our competition must not be following the rules, because everybody says, ‘Well, they’re not doing that,’” Mr. Ashland said. “Now we’re telling people to wear masks that aren’t. It’s sometimes uncomfortable.”
Santa Barbara Wine Therapy in the 700 block of State Street opened its indoor services on Thursday, including five tables spaced out accordingly. For Wine Therapy, the staff’s focus will be preventing parties from mingling.
“That’s the hardest part with large parties, trying to get people to follow the rules, stay seated, not mingle and order food,” said Wine Therapy general manager Eryn Hecker. “We’re definitely trying to provide a safe environment for everybody.”
She said the heat wave has led people to embrace the new order with indoor air conditioning, but people will probably still choose to sit outside most of the time.
“I think it’s going to help business a lot,” Ms. Hecker continued. “People have choices now. On Friday and Saturday nights, I have a wait time of 15 to 20 minutes five to seven groups deep. Now I’ll have some more options for them.”
Joe’s Cafe in the 500 block of State Street has also jumped on the opportunity to add more seating, as its line of customers waiting to be seated has stretched down the side of the restaurant every day during the pandemic.
Joey Somerville, manager of Joe’s, said the restaurant’s typical capacity is around 170, so staff can seat 40 people which is roughly 10 four-top tables.
“We’ve been pretty lucky to have enough tables to stay busy, but not too many tables so it looks empty,” he told the News-Press. “The stuff we worry about now moving inside is that all our mask-wearers are wearing masks. We’ve gotten a bit of pushback on that.”
Mr. Somerville added that while indoor operations are allowed to resume, “Most people we’ve talked to and seen really like the patio idea on State Street.”
When the weather cools, he anticipates more people choosing to sit inside rather than wait for a patio seat.
“We’re really stoked to be able to open inside,” he said. “But, we hope the people understand that we’re still in that dangered area. Not just restaurants, but everybody in Santa Barbara.
“It’s gotten so much better, but everybody still needs to be on our toes and make sure you take all the precautions.”