Restaurant and wineries in Half Moon Bay are refashioning business operations to operate amidst a return to purple tier restrictions, the most restrictive of the state’s four-tier system.
Barterra Winery on Main Street will reopen Thursday, Dec. 3, after being closed for five months due to a combination of COVID-19 and renovations. Manager Chris Minoletti said the biggest challenge of being in the purple tier is the lack of people who come inside and try wine. Barterra Winery usually relies on indoor wine tasting to convince people to buy. The winery is trying to adapt to the new restrictions by now serving food to remain open. Wineries can stay open if they serve food, but Minoletti said some people only want to try some wine and not eat. Barterra Winery has also been trying to wholesale some of their wine to restaurants for cash flow, although many restaurants are reluctant to spend with business down.
“It’s survival mode. Let’s get through this, let’s get as much cash flow as we can,” Minoletti said.
Under the purple tier, restaurants and wineries operating in San Mateo County must close indoor operations and are only allowed to serve outside. Barterra Winery currently has two outdoor tables and has applied for a city parklet permit to have around eight tables. When Barterra Winery reopens, there will be limited service, retail sales, contactless pickup and free delivery.
“I hope we get out of the purple tier again, and we get to a spot where we, with the necessary precautions, operate in a safe manner and have the potential to serve more people,” said Minoletti.
Betsy Del Fierro, the owner of It’s Italia in Half Moon Bay, said her business has adjusted to the new restrictions despite the county moving into the purple tier. It’s Italia previously planned out operations and logistics to ensure that even when the county entered the purple tier, it could continue operations without disruptions. She has done everything possible to ensure her restaurant’s survival.
“I think we are going to ride this out OK,” she said.
It’s Italia is still doing outdoor dining in its courtyard for its customers. Takeout has also increased dramatically and has been a significant help to ensure employees keep their jobs. It’s Italia is also feeding seniors daily through a county program called Great Plates Delivered. The restaurant has a San Mateo County contract to provide around 40 seniors with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great Plates Delivered also inspired Del Fierro to create another food program called Feed a Senior in Need, which provides weekly meals for seniors in the area. Senior Coastsiders in Half Moon Bay delivers the meals.
“By pivoting into these senior programs, we found new ways of being able to keep the restaurant going and still keep a good portion of our staff without having to lay them off,” Del Fierro said.
Del Fierro has seen vendors she works with forced to go out of business this year due to COVID-19. Her restaurant is now more efficient in operations to survive, including having both fewer deliveries per week and the restaurant handle more logistical operations. One of the biggest changes she has made since COVID-19 started is the number of safety protocol for staff. Del Fierro said their priority is ensuring safety protocol to protect staff and guests.
Brian Overfelt is the owner of Old Princeton Landing Public House and Grill in Half Moon Bay. He closed indoor dining when the county entered the purple tier and moved everything outdoors. Fluctuating between indoor and outdoor dining can frustrate his customers, but he knows how important it is to ensure staff and public health safety. Overfelt said seven staff members got sick with COVID-19 in April, and two had to go to the hospital. He then closed his business for a few weeks and used a Paycheck Protection Program loan to help pay staff. He also upgraded COVID-19 safety equipment to ensure staff and customer safety. The restaurant had a good month in October, and he believes they will manage to get through the new restrictions.
The city is also working with businesses on the coast to address the short-term effects of COVID-19 on commerce. Karen Decker, a Half Moon Bay senior management analyst, said the city has plans to form a COVID-19 task force to help address COVID-19 related issues. She said businesses are doing a good job balancing public safety and economic concerns by being conservative in reopening and focusing on stability as restrictions fluctuate.
The city has also partnered with the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce to help businesses. Decker said the city recently received a grant to help restaurants expand outdoor seating areas in the upcoming weeks.
Half Moon Bay Councilman Harvey Rarback said the city is committed to helping address problems related to COVID-19, including hiring a consultant in the near future to help with the COVID-19 recovery.
“The city is definitely working hard on helping our businesses recover as well as they can,” Rarback said.
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