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Restaurants welcome back dine-in customers while some delay reopening

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 21, 2020

Restaurants in San Luis Obispo County are welcoming customers back inside for the first time in two months.

Some were ready to open right away, while others delayed to make sure safety measures were met.

“We were starting to get stir crazy,” said Phil Cox, who enjoyed a sandwich at Colony Market and Deli. ”It's nice to sit on the patio and have a glass of wine."

In Atascadero, Colony Market and Deli relied on take-out and delivery for two months, but 24 hours after getting the 'okay' from San Luis Obispo County and the state, they're welcoming back customers.

“It was already planned out, how to separate everybody, how to have everyone social distance, and today was just about implementing it,” said Joanna Wemple, owner of Colony Market and Deli.

Opening back up is a sign of recovery many have been waiting for.

“I just love our customers and it's going to be so exciting to have everyone be able to sit down again,” said Candee Hall, a barista at Honeymoon Cafe in Pismo Beach.

Paper menus, masks, gloves, and constant sanitation of tables, chairs, checkbooks, and counters is the new normal.

Restaurants have also had to cut down their occupancy by 50%.

Before the pandemic, Mistura in San Luis Obispo could seat nearly 180 guests, but today that looks more like 75.

The interiors at Mama's Meatball and Mistura are now decorated with social distancing and sanitation signs after passing a virtual health inspection.

Executive Chef Nicola Allegretta said he could open up Thursday if he wanted but is waiting until after Memorial Day weekend.

“There's going to be a high flow of people and we don't want to put anybody at risk, our people or our customers,” Allegretta said. “We are having a meeting with our employees Tuesday to tell them about the changes and then go from there."

He's changing some menu items to give guests the best dining experience.

“We are not raising the price, we are actually adding more food to every meal because we are really here for the people,” Allegretta said.

Restaurants are also looking to expand patio seating to bring in more people.

“We're going to take the big picnic benches that we used to have inside and utilize some of our outdoor space so we have a lot less touchpoints,” said Jackie Fields, owner of Wild Fields Brewhouse in Atascadero.

However, Wild Fields Brewhouse, like many other restaurants, is unsure when they will reopen.

Many owners are still trying to figure out safety measures and staff trainings before serving customers at tables.

“We're built as a community space, as a way for people to congregate and engage and we have to figure out how to minimize that,” Fields said.

Even with restaurants reopening, bars are to remain closed unless they have in-house dining available.