Le Bateau Ivre fully reopens with excitement, struggle

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Jinsu Elhance/Staff
As COVID-19 restrictions lift, Berkeley restaurant Le Bateau Ivre has fully reopened after having previously opened with limited capacity.

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Le Bateau Ivre, a Berkeley restaurant that serves French fare, welcomed an unusual sight on Mother’s Day as families and pets occupied its patio space — a stark contrast to the shelter-in-place of last year.

Last year’s pandemic was difficult for Arlene Giordano, owner of Le Bateau Ivre. Her restaurant first reopened Feb. 25 at 25% capacity and then went up to 50%, abiding by city guidelines. Giordano noted that seeing the happiness from families on Mother’s Day was a wonderful feeling. Now, in accordance with the lifting of many COVID-19 restrictions June 15, Le Bateau Ivre is able to enjoy a full house of customers.

“I feel a lot more positive in general. The customers feel more secure and safer coming out,” Giordano said. “A lot of older people have been very cautious and now they come in without masks and in groups of people.”

In accordance with city guidelines, Le Bateau Ivre’s policy on masks has eased, with vaccinated individuals not having to wear masks, according to Giordano.

Giordano said she is grateful for the monetary assistance offered by the city, county and federal government. Le Bateau Ivre received both rounds of Paycheck Protection Program loans, money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and a grant from Alameda County.

Without this support, Giordano said she would have closed. The funds were used for both employee payroll and maintenance needs, including fixing part of the roof.

While the initial shelter-in-place portion of the pandemic has since passed, the aftermath still impacts businesses around the city.

For many small business owners, urgently finding new employees and staff members is necessary for recovery, according to Giordano. She noted that hiring more workers means her business can remain open for longer hours and more days.

In addition to handling staff shortages, businesses have also felt an increased pressure to reopen their doors. As customers begin to adjust to life post-pandemic, business owners are trying to open, even if they aren’t fully ready, according to Matthew Jervis, director of vitality of the Downtown Berkeley Association.

“Everyone’s working really hard right now to keep up with the demand,” Jervis said. “There’s high expectations from the customer point of view.”

Despite the present struggles of reopening, Giordano said she feels positive about resuming normal life. She explained that her restaurant is a source of community support and socialization that could not be replicated during the pandemic.

Since her reopening, Giordano’s business has held small group weddings and gatherings. As the city reopens after more than a year in lockdown, she added that the restaurant will get stronger in the coming months.

“It’s been good to reassess what’s important and what’s not important, both with the restaurant and my own personal life,” Giordano said. “It’s a lot of contact with people, it’s very social, it gives people jobs and it gives people a place they can come to feel comfortable in.”

Contact Dina Katgara, Ashley Tsai and Mimia Ousilas at [email protected].