Napa Restaurants Race To Reopen By Holiday Under New Restrictions

Holly Quan
May 20, 2020 - 9:19 am

Just a day after Governor Gavin Newsom visited Mustards restaurant in Napa Valley, he gave the green light for the county to reopen eateries, malls and schools

Napa County wineries’ tasting rooms will still have to wait, but restaurants are now suddenly getting ready to bring servers back in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend under the state’s “expanded phase two.”

“We were quite surprised, mostly at the timing. It came very quickly, I think we were all gearing towards a June 1st reopening date,” says Phillip Tessier, executive chef at Press in St. Helena. “So kind of a mixed emotion of excitement for a day we’ve been waiting for for several months now, and also a sense of responsibility for getting this right going forward.”

The announcement comes as Napa County has seen some of the area’s lowest COVID-19 numbers with just 92 cases and three deaths.

Restaurants are now racing to fall in compliance with about 12 pages of restrictions  including rearranging dining rooms, training workers in the new precautions and stocking up on PPE in addition to the usual preparations for service. 

“You have to be flexible, you have to re-invent yourself rather quickly,” says Tessier of business in this pandemic. “In two days we went from a fairly high-end restaurant to fast-food takeout for lunch, serving fried chicken sandwiches and cubanos. So it’s going to be one of those things where you kinda have to have fun with it and make the best of the opportunity, but it’s definitely been a challenge."

Restaurants and retail can reopen right away and schools can reopen June 1st. 

The famed Culinary Institute of America, just up the road from Press, is preparing to reopen next month.

Neighboring Sonoma County will ask the state today to allow its restaurants and wineries to reopen for outdoor service, and the county health officer expects approval by the end of the week.