Walnut Creek restaurant owners surprised at reopening requirements, looking for clarity

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- California restaurant owners are now looking into buying Plexiglass and thermometers as they study a new list of requirements the state says they need to meet in order to re-open.

Tony Dudem, owner of 1515 in Walnut Creek, was surprised when he saw the list.

"I was overwhelmed, to be honest with you," Dudem said. "I knew there was going to be some strategic planning and stuff that they were going to mandate but that was a huge laundry list of stuff. It is going to be quite interesting to see how people deal with that and not deal with that. I honestly am not sure how many people can survive and get through that. There's a lot of people already talking about closing up and this could be the nail in the coffin. There's a lot of stuff to do."

The list includes spacing tables out six feet apart, disposable menus, masks for employees, hand sanitizer available and Plexiglas between tables.

But the big one for Dudem's restaurant is banning people from sitting at the bar. He says he makes more money from people at the bar than he does on food.

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"The bar is where people like to socialize the most, they drink and that's where your profits come from. Not having a bar that's going to really handcuff people a lot," he said.

Gary Vasconi opened Ramona's Kitchen in Walnut Creek the week before the shelter in place mandate was ordered. Now he is studying the new requirements.

"Last night I called our restaurant supply company, East Bay Restaurant Supply in Oakland, to start pricing out Plexiglass," Vasconi said. "We obviously need it at the point of sale (the counter) but also in between tables and outside. We are going to have to have markers where people can stand and sit. I was looking at infrared thermometers last night which are roughly going to be $100. My guess is it's going to add 20-25 percent overhead and obviously only being open for one week when the shelter-in-place was ordered, the budget is scrapped and we are working on new budget on a daily basis."

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Dudem says it's tough to know whether to start making the changes or wait for possibly a different set of instructions from the county. He said others are having a similar reaction.

"Everybody is kind of deer in the headlights. They don't know what's going on and I don't think there's any real clarity or precise answers to what is going on. Everything is changing everyday," Dudem said.

The Bay Area health officers have not said when they will allow restaurants to re-open, even with the new requirements.

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