Siskiyou restaurants adapt to COVID-19 with outdoor seating

Bill Choy and Skye Kinkade
Black Bear Diner in Mount Shasta has erected large tents to allow for comfortable al fresco seating in their parking lot.

Local eateries are looking at fresh ways to keep business going while the COVID-19 pandemic keeps the California and nation in a state of upheaval.

Last week, the Gov. Gavin Newsom announced due to increases in COVID-19 cases, restaurants would not be allowed to serve customers seated indoors.

To help local businesses that serve food, Yreka City Manager Steve Baker said the city is allowing restaurants to put chairs and tables in front of their businesses. Normally, businesses would have to go through the planning department to be allowed to do this.

“We’re really trying to provide different avenues to help,” Baker said. “We want our restaurants to survive ... We understand that things are hard right now and we want to do what we can.”

Baker said that he knows that Strings Italian Cafe on Miner Street is ordering tables, and intends to place tables on the sidewalk in front of their Miner Street business.

Jefferson’s Roadhouse, located on South Main Street, already has a patio and will soon put tables outside as well.

Owner Gerald Overstreet said Jefferson’s Roadhouse has been closed for four months due to COVID-19.

“It sucks,” he said about the situation.

While they tried take-out in March, it was a struggle to get business and Jefferson’s did not make enough to warrant staying open.

Overstreet said the restaurant has been renovated and the menu revamped. He hopes to open again by the first week of August, although he said he’s unsure how the heat will affect customers.

“We have to at least try,” he said. “We need to reopen and try to get people to come back. We’re going to do our best.”

Linda’s Soup Kitchen, located at the Yreka Junction shopping center, has announced on their Facebook page that they are open for patio dining and carry out. Social distancing is in effect. The eatery asked customers to wear a mask when entering and placing their order.

Fledgling restaurants are feeling the sting of the pandemic and some don’t know if they can weather the storm. Valley Market and Cafe in Fort Jones is in that boat.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to go back to the market takeout model we did before, so we are going to close for at least couple of weeks in the hope that things will shift again and allow us some time to regroup and, hopefully, resume dine-in service sooner than later,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post last week.

“In the very possible scenario that we are unable to open the restaurant again, we just want you to know that we have so very much appreciated the incredible support our customers in Scott Valley and beyond have shown us over the past five months as we tried to get off the ground during the undoubtedly worst possible time to do such a thing,” the post read.

Mount Shasta’s Black Bear Diner has utilized its front parking area and areas along the east side of the restaurant for outdoor seating, said Director of Operations Services Sherri Degraffenreid.

“We watched (Newsom’s) press conference on Monday. We were able to close one service and opened with outdoor service the following day,” said Degraffenreid, who worked with Solano’s and Ramshaw’s Ace Hardware and purchased “every umbrella in town.”

Although the tables with umbrellas have been functional, Degraffenreid said plans are underway to make the outdoor area a bit more permanent and “professional” with larger tents to provide shade, as Newsom’s order is “indefinite.”

The relatively new Mt. Shasta Boulevard restaurants Sparky’s Landing and Pipeline Craft Taps and Kitchen are also working on plans to make outdoor seating possible. They’re working with the city to place tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurants, as well as the adjacent parking spaces.

Mount Shasta City Manager Bruce Pope said the city is supportive of businesses that wish to move their operations outdoors in order to maintain social distancing and keep their businesses up and running.

Two trees that were already slated for removal on Mt. Shasta Boulevard due to the destructive nature of their root systems were removed this week in front of the restaurants. They’ll eventually be replaced by flowering pear trees, but until then, that space will be used for outdoor seating areas, said Pope.

Railroad Park in Dunsmuir has moved dining outside under tents, as have Cafe Maddalena’s and Cornerstone Cafe.

Saying no to the order

In Montague, The Dutchman Restaurant announced last week that they still planned to serve people inside, flouting Gov. Newsom’s order not to.

Since then, however, they’re transitioning to outdoor dining.

“Right now it's a matter of permits which should be approved soon,” said owner Ken Crawford. “The current plan is to block off the parking side of the main road with concrete barriers to enable us to offer outdoor seating in front of the restaurant. The city had a special meeting where we were able to hash out the best approach.”

In a Saturday Facebook post, The Dutchman announced that they got a visit from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Friday night midway through dinner service.

“A letter was given to us and we will be addressing the contents over the next few days,” the post read. “No fines have been imposed and no citations were given.”