Stay updated: East Bay food scene and COVID-19 – Berkeleyside

Restaurant News
Nearly empty produce shelves at Whole Foods on Telegraph Avenue on March 17.
Nearly empty produce shelves at Whole Foods on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley on March 17. Photo: Pete Rosos

Food providers are classified as an “essential service” during the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order. Restaurants can remain open, but only to offer take-away and delivery service. Nosh is keeping this post updated for our community with the latest news about how the novel coronavirus is affecting the East Bay food scene. Hear of something relevant? Email us.

March 17

CLEOPHUS QUEALY TO CLOSE The shelter-in-place mandate that shut down bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries today through April 7 will likely sound the death knell for many in the drink industry. Today, we heard news of the first to fall in the East Bay. Five-year-old Cleophus Quealy Beer Company announced on its blog it does not expect to reopen after the shelter-in-place order is lifted. The San Leandro brewery said it plans to “remain in business through the end of April and will continue to assess options to make our final beers available to our customers.”

THE RESTAURANT SCENE HAS CHANGED FOREVER In the wake of March 16’s Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order, restaurant owners are scrambling to figure out how to keep their businesses alive. Many have made the tough decision to lay off most of their workers, keeping a skeleton crew to cook and operate takeout services. According to Eater, chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen laid off all of her hourly workers, going from a staff of 50 to a team of three salaried employees. As a headline for a story on Eater’s national site eloquently puts it: “Restaurants are fucked — unless they get a bail-out.”

March 16

LOCAL MARKETS CHANGE HOURS, SERVICES The shelter-in-place announcement inspires another round of panic buying at local grocery stores. In the meantime, several markets have announced schedule and capacity changes due to the recent uptick in business: Berkeley Bowl is now open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily for “additional cleaning and stocking.” It is also limiting the number of shoppers that can be in the store at once, rationing some “key items,” and suspending some services. All Trader Joe’s locations have shortened daily hours to 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and are limiting customers to purchasing no more than two of the same item. Market Hall Foods has reduced hours for its bakery (now open at 8 a.m.) and Highwire Coffee counter (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) in Rockridge. It is also limiting the number of customers allowed into its stores at a time: 18 adults at Rockridge Market Hall, six adults at Hapuku Fish Shop and Marin Sun Farms, 10 adults at Market Hall Produce and 15 adults at Berkeley Market Hall. Natural Grocery Company‘s new hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. until further notice.

SAFEWAY TO HIRE 2,000 MORE WORKERS The grocery chain says it is immediately hiring 2,000 workers to meet the demands of shoppers stocking up on supplies. According to the Chronicle, most of the openings will be at the company’s 165 Bay Area locations.

BAY AREA-WIDE SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER CHANGES DINING At 1 p.m., health officials from six Bay Area counties announce new restrictions on movement for the general population. The order requires everyone to “shelter in place” at home other than to provide or receive essential services. Bars, breweries and wineries must shutter, but restaurants can remain open to offer take-away and delivery service only. Grocery stores, certified farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores and other places that sell canned food, dry goods, fresh produce, pet food, fresh meat, fish and poultry will remain open. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or living unit are prohibited — so even private dinner parties are out. The order is effective at 12:01 a.m., March 17 through April 7.

March 15

MORE RESTAURANTS DECIDE TO CLOSE As social distancing measures ramp up, more restaurants decide to temporarily close; many continue to offer takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery.

NEWSOM CALLS FOR BARS TO CLOSE Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for — but does not mandate — the shutdown of bars, nightclubs, brewpubs and wineries to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While the governor does not include restaurants on this list, he specifies establishments should cut occupancy by 50% to keep with recommended social distancing measures of six feet, and that restaurants should “focus on takeout for those isolating.”

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March 14

EVERYONE IS PANIC BUYING Locals preparing for longterm self-isolation at home, or those who fear supplies might dry up, start shopping in mass at local grocery stores. The sudden surge in business means long lines to get in and check out, empty shelves and crowds that put both shoppers and employees at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

March 13

URBAN ADAMAH STOPS PUBLIC PROGRAMMING The community farm with Jewish values in West Berkeley has stopped its public programming and closed the farm to the public until the end of March.

BERKELEY CITY OFFICIALS SUPPORT DINING OUT Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn announce showing support for local restaurants by dining-in at Revival Bar & Kitchen. By 4 p.m., they announce they are too busy with the city’s response to COVID-19 for a sit-down dinner. They opt for takeout from Revival instead.

March 12

BERKELEY FARMERS MARKETS REMAIN OPEN The Ecology Center will continue its three weekly farmers markets, but said it will continue to monitor both federal and local recommendations and guidelines daily. Food and Farming Program Director Carle Brinkman told Nosh the Ecology Center has shared best practices with its farmers, vendors and market partners and will be disinfecting “surfaces/objects” at the market regularly. The Ecology Center updated its website to include further information about precautions it is taking, including ceasing food sampling at the market and suspending “high touch activities,” like the Kids’ Patch.

RESTAURANTS HIT HARD Restaurants are seeing a significant drop in customers. A number of East Bay restaurants, including Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack in Oakland, suspend on-site dining and focus on delivery or counter service instead.

March 11

TASTE OF TEMESCAL POSTPONED The Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District announces it will postpone its 11th annual Taste of Temescal event until May or a future date.

TWO CHINATOWN FIXTURES CLOSE After months of lagging business, two Oakland Chinatown giants have closed. Nosh contributor Momo Chang shares news that popular dim sum hotspot Peony Seafood Restaurant and all-you-can eat restaurant Buffet Fortuna have temporarily shuttered due to financial losses incurred from fears of COVID-19. Although both restaurants aim to eventually reopen (Buffet Fortuna’s San Leandro location remains open), the closures appear to be an ominous bellwether for the neighborhood.

ALAMEDA COUNTY FOOD BANK ASKS FOR HELP The Alameda County Food Bank has an “urgent need” for volunteers to help stuff emergency food bags and prepare food for its partners. The organization said it has increased its cleaning standards to ensure volunteers remain safe from the spread of COVID-19. Sign up on the food bank’s volunteer page.

March 9

CHEF ANDRÉS LENDS A HAND Chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen step in to feed passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland.

CAFÉS STOP ACCEPTING REUSABLE CUPS Following in the footsteps of Starbucks, national coffee chains like Dunkin’ and Blue Bottle suspend filling personal cups to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

March 6

DELIVERY GOES HANDS-FREE Third-party delivery services Postmates and Instacart announce “no-contact” delivery in order to minimize person-to-person contact between delivery staff and customers.

March 4

NO MORE SAMPLES AT COSTCO Due to coronavirus concerns, Costco suspends its popular free food samples, including at its Richmond location, until further notice.

February 12

BUSINESS DOWN 50% FOR CHINATOWN RESTAURANTS Chinatown restaurants across the nation are experiencing a drastic decrease in business, as tourists and locals avoid the neighborhoods due to fears of the novel coronavirus. Eater reports that by mid-February (before any cases are even reported in the Bay Area), business in Oakland Chinatown is down by 50%.

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