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‘Never Say Die’ - Restaurants doing whatever it takes in the age of COVID-19

If you’re an 80’s kid you might have caught the Goonie’s reference. If you’re a restauranteur you’re in the fight of your life to stay open and save your business in the age of COVID-19.

With the U.S. Independent Restaurant industry directly employing 11 million workers and another 5 million indirectly through various hospitality chains1, the task of ‘keeping the lights on’ has been no picnic. Especially here in Wine Country where we continue to yoyo back and forth between restrictions. We’ve seen bars turn into bottle shops, restaurants provide pantry provisions, food service models change, and much more.

So what have been the lifesavers? The first came mid-March when California’s ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) lifted restrictions. Allowing restaurants to sell bottled beer, wine, and spirits, as well as to-go cocktails (with the purchase of food). Talk about a game-changer!

From there, we saw reduced capacity, in-person outdoor dining return, and for a brief moment, in-door dining. Other fun changes; Downtown Santa Rosa’s 4th Street has closed to thru traffic allowing for a unique alfresco dining experience, the town’s of Windsor and Healdsburg now allow open containers in their downtown squares and the iconic Sonoma Plaza is dotted with pop-ups.

So who’s doing some fun things?

Fern Bar, The Barlow, Sebastopol, Ca - Offering outdoor dining in an adjacent covered parklet and curbside pick-up, Fern Bar continues to offer to-go bottled beer, wine, cocktails (single-serve and batched, because you never want just one) and their signature mocktails.

Along with their newest offering, Fern Bar Pantry. Bringing the unique and rich flavors of Chef Joe Zobel’s kitchen to yours. Enjoy gluten-free dredge to re-create Fern Bar’s mouth-watering Fried Chicken, Mushroom Ketchup, Vinaigrettes, Hot Sauce, and more. Also in the works, meal kits! Focusing on local seasonal ingredients, the kits will include recipe cards, ingredients, marinades, etc. and feed two or more people.

Visiting The Barlow? “It’s all about community”, say’s Sam Levy, Fern Bar General Manager. Working with Golden State Cider Taproom, the newly opened Region, and soon Seismic Brewing to offer meals with your pints and tasting flights.

Duke’s Spirited Cocktails, Healdsburg, Ca - A staple on the Healdsburg Plaza for both locals and out of towners, Duke’s has been nonstop with keeping their socially distanced offerings fresh!

In addition to offering take out food and to-go cocktails, their Bottle Shop features a variety of local and unique spirits. As well as cocktail kits, their very own crazy delicious canned cocktails, and most recently their signature bitters blends. Virtually they’ve offered everything from Boozy Trivia to How-to-Cocktail Tutorials with Cappy (one of Duke’s co-founders) and several tastings, most recently with ADI’s Distillery of the Year, Spirit Works! But the fun doesn’t stop there… picnic on the plaza with tasty snacks and an adult slushie or enjoy outdoor dining in the recently opened parklet.

Interested in giving back? Consider purchasing a face mask. Graciously donated by Goose & Fish, 100% of the proceeds go to Duke’s Staff Fund.

Gran Electrica, Napa, Ca - Still a relatively young restaurant, about two and a half years old, Gran Electrica is rolling with the punches and getting creative with a rebooted service model and dining experience.

Offering a trimmed-down travels well to-go menu, featuring items like Elote, Taco Kits (deconstructed), and what has turned out to be a cult following for their Margaritas, Gran Electrica reassessed a reopening strategy. “How could we make our guests and our employees feel safe and still create a fun and energetic vibe?”, said Blaire Scheibal of Gran Electric. First came a patio renovation, followed by a shift in service. Described by Scheibal as “the middle ground of fast-casual and sit down dining”, guests are seated by the host and enjoy a contactless ordering and dining experience with menu pad and food runners. But the pièce de résistance comes with their recently opened picnic beds! Yes, think high raised garden beds covered with fresh fluffy grass! It’s perfect for enjoying the electrica vibe, which carries into the revamped patio with a new art piece by DJ Agana.

Want to book a picnic bed? Call 707-258-1313.

Out of great crisis comes great innovation…

If you plan to visit the area and any of these awesome locations be sure to check current rules, regulations, and offerings. As we know it’s an ever-changing landscape.

Stay well, travel safely and support local - Poppy & Vine

1 - Independent Restaurant Coalition

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