Eating out during COVID-19 pandemic: A first-hand look at the new restaurant reality in Napa County

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- Dine-in restaurant service is back in California, but it looks and feels more than a little different from what we knew before COVID-19 came along

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On Wednesday, Napa County became the first Bay Area county to allow restaurants to host people for dine-in table service.

ABC7 News reporter Wayne Freedman was in Napa Wednesday to get a first-hand look at the new precautions in place that customers might see if they go out to grab a hot meal.

New rules at the door


The changes stare you in the face as you open the front door. Since when do restaurants post rules? How about since COVID-19.

At Downtown Joe's in Napa, the staff wears face masks, as did ABC7'S news crew before sitting down at our socially distanced table, then the mask can come off. But if you're walking around the restaurant, like to use the bathroom, you should plan to put it back on.

Sanitize those hands, again, and again


There were plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout Downtown Joe's and everyone sanitizes their hands when they come into the restaurant. The staff wears gloves but changes those gloves regularly and disinfects between glove changes.

Your own personal menu


Say farewell to heavy menus in binders and plastic. Those are history, at least for now. Every customer gets his or her own paper menu. Think of it as a souvenir.

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Protecting the staff


You will notice another addition at the bar in the form of hanging plastic barriers between the customers and staff. Downtown Joe's owner Joe Peatman said a friend finished them Tuesday night and installed those barriers right before opening on Wednesday.

A less noticeable change is in the back of the restaurant. In order to create socially distance in a cramped kitchen, Peatman had to cut his behind the scenes staff in half.

Just like in the dining room, every in the back is wearing masks and gloves too.

Spacing out the tables


Restaurants now seat about half as many people. Downtown Joe's spaced them at least 6 feet apart from each other. Tape on the floor directs traffic.

Cleaning up, before turning over


When one guest leaves, the cleaning process begins. Staff at Downtown Joe's disinfects every table before allowing another guest to sit down there.

ABC7 found no major changes in the payment process. Cash is still accepted.

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