After briefly reopening for outdoor dining last weekend, one downtown Pleasanton restaurant switched back to takeout only on Tuesday.
Todd Utikal told the Weekly he "received a very good tip" that "someone from the health department is coming (Wednesday)," and decided to cancel patio dining at his restaurant, SideTrack Bar + Grill, located just off Main Street on West Angela Street.
"At this point, I now know we're in violation of the shelter-in-place order if we stay open," Utikal said.
With the state's stay-at-home order not officially extended at the time since going into effect Dec. 5, Utikal resumed outdoor dining at his establishment last Friday, the same day the Bay Area's regional intensive care unit (ICU) capacity fell to 3% capacity. ICU capacity dropped below 1% this week.
SideTrack was one of "only about 10 (restaurants) that opened" in the Tri-Valley for outdoor dining last Friday, Utikal said, including McKay's Taproom and Beer Garden just a couple blocks away.
Utikal said he notified city officials including the mayor about opening for outdoor service because "I wanted to be very upfront that we were doing this, out of respect for them."
"Without any guidelines, we felt that we had the right to open," he added.
Like many other restaurants, the takeout only model has hurt revenue at SideTrack, where profits are down 70% since a year ago, according to Utikal.
"All you can do is try to manage your food costs, your labor costs. It's just not what we've built," Utikal said.
A number of precautions were taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among staff and diners before switching back to takeout only, he said.
"It's very open air," Utikal added. "We have two patios. We even remove a couple more tables just to make sure everyone was distanced as well as they could be."
Taking such measures and still being prohibited from serving food and drinks on site has compounded his frustration with the extension. Utikal claimed Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss even told him recently that it was no longer sensible to keep patio dining closed, and "he'd hopefully help us advocate to the state for reopening."
Though only briefly open, many SideTrack patrons found solace in the previously common act of going out to eat from Friday to Monday.
"We are social beings," Utikal said. "We need to be out and as long as we can provide a safe environment. We should be able to do so."