Outdoor Dining Slowly Returns Across Sonoma County

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With little advance notice, Sonoma County’s restaurants were scrambling this holiday weekend to interpret and take advantage of a newly amended health order allowing outdoor dining.

Word came late on Friday afternoon that starting Saturday restaurants and bars would be allowed to serve food to customers on-site for the first time in more than two months.

Most restaurants were trying to figure out how to comply with the order, scrambling to bring back staff, and also find a way to somehow make it economically worthwhile to open with limited space and tables.

And, in the wake of the coronavirus emergency there was widespread uncertainty over how many diners would be comfortable returning to a sit-down dining experience.

Most of downtown Santa Rosa showed little outdoor activity on Sunday afternoon, but at Ausiello’s on 5th Street tables were spread out into the space normally reserved for parking, and customers were enjoying food and beers under a shade tent.

Ausiello’s has been a family owned neighborhood gathering spot for around 2 decades, and owner Armand Ausiello says that almost as soon as he received the green light to reopen for outdoor dining, customers began stopping in.

On Friday the state of California granted Sonoma County a variance that permits it to speed up business reopening, and to proceed more deeply into phase 2 of Governor Newsom’s four phase reopening plan for the state.

Under the current order, restaurants can offer food in an outdoor setting, but must comply with strict standards for hygiene, face coverings and social distancing.

It may be weeks more before indoor dining will be allowed in Sonoma County, although some neighboring counties like Napa and Lake have received their own variances from state guidelines and have already amended their health orders to allow it.

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