Berkeley restaurants hesitate to return to indoor dining

Photo of restaurants on Telegraph Ave.
Katie Lee/Staff
Berkeley restaurants will be able to operate with 100 people or at 25% capacity indoors, whichever is lower, beginning Oct. 26.

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Berkeley restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor dining beginning Oct. 26, but safety concerns about COVID-19 are still prevalent.

Under new regulations, the city of Berkeley is permitting the phased reopening of additional activities, including indoor dining, worship services and movie theaters. They will be able to operate with 100 people or at 25% capacity indoors, whichever is lower. Despite these new plans, some restaurants are choosing not to reopen indoor dining immediately due to safety concerns for employees and customers.

Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, which brings New Orleans cuisine to the Berkeley community, has not yet made a decision, but nonetheless has reservations about the safety of indoor dining, according to Corey Mike, the restaurant’s assistant manager.

“While we are certainly interested in the prospect of having more business and more capacity to serve people with 25% capacity dining, our reservations all revolve around the fact of having waitstaff wait on tables and on people that are not masked,” Mike said.

Angeline’s used to seat up to 100 people indoors and has since been relying on takeout orders and patio seating to preserve a community setting, according to Mike. Its outdoor service offers seating to 32 customers, and about 75% of business is done through takeout orders.

The pizzeria from the Cheese Board Collective has also modified its dining arrangements, according to Donna Collins, a worker and co-owner. It is operating on a first-come, first-served window service, offering about 60-70% of its normal menu products.

The Cheeseboard Pizza has no plans to return to indoor dining, as it are satisfied with the level of business it is currently bringing in, despite the loss of indoor dining, Collins said. By about September, the restaurant reached its way up to making 75% of its normal total revenue.

Collins added that the Cheeseboard Pizza does not plan to reopen until it is fully safe.

“A vaccine being widely distributed and available would probably be one big trigger for us to consider going in the direction of indoor dining, and of course we want to be compliant with county and state laws and recommendations for public safety,” Collins said.

According to Matthew Jervis, director of vitality for the Downtown Berkeley Association, the reopening of indoor dining would be helpful but not a sure fix to the current state of restaurants. Jervis added that he has seen some restaurants lay off entire staffs.

With warm weather, consumers may opt to stay outside but as it becomes colder, people may prefer to dine indoors, which could increase rates of COVID-19, Jervis added.

“Just because they’re going to allow indoor dining doesn’t necessarily mean that people would be ready for it, so it’s by no means a sure thing that revenue would be going up,” Jervis said. “There’s still a long way to go. There’s a lot of lost revenue.”

Cameron Rebosio is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cameron_rebosio .