To the relief of several business owners in downtown Hollister, the state has rescinded the stay at home order that prohibited outdoor dining. This is the third time restaurants will supplement take out services with outdoor dining in hopes of outlasting the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
California put San Benito County, part of the San Joaquin Valley region, under a stay at home order on Dec. 6 in response to the region’s ICU capacity dropping below 15% during a surge of positive cases and hospitalizations.
The decision to rescind the order on Jan. 25 was well received by both businesses owners and customers despite poor weather conditions for outdoor dining. According to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Hollister has received 4.27 inches of rain as of Feb. 1 since the state lifted the stay at home order.
“The customers have been waiting for it, you can see it now,” said Carlos Hernandez, owner of Heavenly Bakery at 601 San Benito Street. “They’re enjoying the outdoors. That’s going to help us to keep our employees working. It’s actually a great time to come back.”
With several customers enjoying their food at Heavenly Bakery’s parklet on a sunny Feb. 1 afternoon, Hernandez said it is more gratifying seeing loyal customers enjoying the outdoor seating rather than just picking up an order
“It’s never the same,” Hernandez said. “Seeing them there enjoying the food right out of the kitchen, it’s a great feeling.”
The most challenging part for his business is the constant change of allowing and disallowing outdoor dining, and how quickly businesses have to adapt.
“Hiring new people and letting them go whenever they shut down, it’s hard,” Hernandez said.
Despite the challenges, Hernandez said organizations which have supported local businesses through programs such as Meals For Heroes have made a huge impact.
Gustavo Gonzales Jr., general manager of La Catrina Mexican Grill at 449 San Benito Street, said only heavy rain stops people from enjoying the outdoors.
“Aunque está haciendo frío y un poco de aire, la gente está respondiendo bien,” Gonzales said. “Sabemos que es un poco incómodo con la lluvia o el aire pero creo que tiene más valor ahorita salir y volver a experimentar eso de tener una vida a la que estábamos acostumbrados.” (Although it’s cold and there’s a little bit of wind, people are responding well. We know it could be a little uncomfortable with the rain and air, but I think there is more value in going out and attempting to regain part of the life we had before.)
He said the only day when La Catrina didn’t have customers using its parklet was Jan. 28 when there was heavy rain.
Both Hernandez and Gonzales said they expect and hope that outdoor dining won’t be restricted again, and that this is the first step in eventually allowing indoor services.
While longstanding businesses have gone through all the operating changes during the pandemic, those that recently opened have had a different set of challenges.
Las Micheladas Bar and Grill, located at 427 San Benito Street in Hollister, opened on Dec. 27 when only take out and deliveries were allowed. On its second day of offering outdoor dining, owner David Ramirez said he already sees the great value that parklets have on businesses. That is of course, when weather allows it.
The Ramirez family owns another similar business in Gilroy called Culichis Urban Kitchen, with a third business in the works in Watsonville.
The process to open Las Micheladas took Ramirez and his family two years because of several delays. The first delay was all the maintenance and upgrades the family did to the building that formerly housed Cheap Seats.
When Las Micheladas was ready for its grand opening, plans were put off after a sewer line issue downtown, Ramirez said.
Ramirez said the fire delayed the grand opening another five months.
“We’re blessed to have the support of the community and people are giving us a shot,” Ramirez said.
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