Sonoma County restaurants, wineries allowed more freedom as it enters CA's red tier

ByMatt Boone KGO logo
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Sonoma Co. businesses allowed more freedom as it joins red tier
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The last time customers were able to dine inside of Cafe La Haye in Sonoma was back in June.

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The last time customers were able to dine inside of Cafe La Haye in Sonoma was back in June.

"It's been challenging to say the least," said owner Saul Gropman.

They were able to stay afloat by the addition of six outdoor tables on the sidewalk as well as increased take out orders.

"The biggest challenge has been communication from the state," said Gropman about the changing regulations as the virus has surged through the community.

Sonoma County has faced some of the harshest restrictions in the state. When the Blueprint for a Safer Economy was implemented in August, they remained in the purple tier even as neighboring counties dipped into less restrictive tiers.

RELATED: 2 Bay Area counties join red tier: Here's what will change

"The restrictions from the health departments are widely different from Napa to Sonoma counties," observed Gropman.

While he was encouraged to finally have indoor dining, he said it would still take a few weeks to hire new staff and set up the dining room to meet the spacing requirements.

"Since last July we've used our dining room as a storage facility for our takeout," he said.

In addition to indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms can reopen with limited capacity as well.

Wineries that don't serve food are allowed to have outdoor tasting, though indoor tastings can only be offered if food is served.

RELATED: California releases new guidelines to reopen breweries, wineries

"It's something we've all been looking forward to," said Tony Moll, owner of Three Fat Guys winery in Sonoma about the change to the red tier.

A former pro football player turned winemaker, he's also a Sonoma native and has watched businesses around him struggle.

"It's just an all time struggle right now to make ends meet. Is it even worth it to keep the doors open? That's always the big question," he said about the business climate in the region.

While their bottle sales have actually been up during the pandemic, income from their tasting room has slow to recover. Weekends have been busy, but he says traffic during the week has yet to pick up due to the lack of tourists.

"We are missing all the out of state people that typically come in year-round that bring us business in the middle of the week," said Moll.

He has been hosting virtual tastings as well but is eager to bring people inside and expand capacity on the patio.

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