Restaurants across Sacramento opened for in-person dining over the weekend after the county lifted certain stay-at-home restrictions. While many diners sat at outdoor tables in downtown and Midtown, reopening looked different for restaurants on corridors south of the city’s urban core.
Many restaurants in the central city opened for sit-down meal service with tables outside. More restaurants in Midtown and downtown neighborhoods have begun preparing to have tables that extend onto public sidewalks or into streets, as part of the city’s alfresco dining program.
The Midtown Association reported that around 30 of the over 200 restaurants in the area re-opened for dine-in services with outdoor seating Emily Baime Michaels, Executive Director of the Association, believed many more would be re-opening and using the city’s program in the coming weeks.
She mentioned that for many, having the alfresco program was integral to their re-opening for dine-in services.
“Their perspective was that it wouldn’t have been worth it to reopen without the alfresco program,” she said. She mentioned Aioli, a Spanish restaurant in Midtown that would have only been able to accommodate a small number of tables indoors to adhere to social distancing rules.
“Right now they have five tables inside and 17 outside. The vast majority of business they’re doing is actually outside their restaurant,” she said.
Overall, she said many midtown restaurants who did open over the weekend were able to make around two-thirds of the revenue they made pre-coronavirus, a drastic shift from the around 5-10% they were making on take-out orders only.
“They felt like by Sunday they’re used to business as usual now in that area,” Baime Michaels said.
But for those with restaurants along more outer city corridors such as Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento, diners were slower to return.
Frank Louie of the Stockton Boulevard Partnership said out of the around 125 restaurants on the boulevard, about 20 of them re-opened for dine-in service over the weekend, but that business was slow. He said many owners struggled with getting employees back, many of whom worried about returning to work. Other owners didn’t think they could partake in the outdoor dining option being provided by the city, given their location.
“It was kind of a trickle in effect, because this was the first week for the city of Sacramento, it was just kind of slow, the volume didn’t come back to pre-pandemic numbers,” Louie said. “But I think once folks are comfortable, in the next week or two, you’ll start seeing the increase in volume of opening of restaurants and businesses along Stockton Boulevard.
Corey De Roo of the Florin Road Partnership said her association oversees around 90 different restaurants, but that over the weekend the vast majority continued to offer take-out only service. She said for her restaurants, many have storefronts along one of the city’s busiest throughways, and most likely will not be applying to offer outdoor dining.
“The Florin Road traffic is very fast and it’s a heavily trafficked street, so it depends on the location,” De Roo said. "If they’re inside a strip mall or a commercial center they’d probably be able to safely operate alfresco dining, but if they’re located streetside on Florin Road it would probably be a little problematic for traffic and safety."
Neither De Roo nor Louie mentioned that they’d had any businesses who’d asked about applying for the city’s alfresco dining program as of yet.
Pauline Huang, owner of Oba Kitchen on Stockton Boulevard, said she did reopen her business over the weekend for dine-in service, but she had to reduce her table seating to about a quarter of what her restaurant typically can serve. Outdoor dining was not something she was considering in the future, and she said most of her customers this past weekend still opted for take-out.
“Our restaurant location, I don’t think it works for us in the summer, it’s so hot out there, almost the whole day, it’s not going to work for us,” Huang said. She added that her restaurant faces the sun and there isn’t much shade in the strip mall they’re located in.
“Basically there’s parking, just for a couple of business units in the building … from early in the day until sunset, you still can feel the sun, we don’t have shade over there.”
She said she was glad to be able to reopen for in-person dining to let people know that they’re open, but they didn’t have many people come to sit down over the weekend. She said she wouldn’t be applying for an outdoor dining permit.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Emily Baime Michaels. She is Executive Director of the Midtown Association.
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