With COVID-19 restrictions at full purple, restaurants and bars must exploit their few options


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Red tier, purple tier, orange tier, yellow tier…

Indoor, outdoor, closed.

What’s a restaurant or bar to do when the governor is issuing weekly updates affecting your chances for survival? Answer: Understand the loopholes. Look for solutions.

Under the governor’s Covid-19 guidelines, bars and cocktail lounges must close … but restaurants may stay open within certain parameters, thus creating a loophole for bars — serve meals, become restaurants. But what constitutes a meal? Yes, the state has published guidelines for that too.

Potato chips, no. Slim Jims, no. Pickled eggs, no. Freshly prepared sandwiches, yes. Freshly baked pizza, yes. French fries, no. Desserts, no.

Some might argue in favor of hot dogs. Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine says he applies this test:

“What would your mom say? Would your mom say that hot dog is a meal? Probably not,” he said.

When it comes to that or any question about what’s accepted and what’s not, John Carr of California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control says the state prefers education to enforcement.

“If we can solve this with a conversation, a phone call, that’s preferable,” he said, “because we understand businesses are struggling and they’re trying to do what they can to navigate this very difficult situation.”

Now that restaurants, and restaurant-bars, will be forced to operate outdoors only — quite possibly for an extended period of time — there’s renewed focus on tents and canopies.

The problem is, at some point a tent sealed up tightly against the cold simply becomes a covid Petri dish. That’s why, as Constantine says, the state has issued verbal guidelines on tents, too.

“The concern right now is that eventually you start to recreate an indoor dining area outdoors,” he said. “And we just kind of recreated what the state doesn’t want us to do.”

Here’s the takeaway: For restaurants and bars, staying in businesses during what could be a prolonged stay in the purple tier will require not just perseverance but creativity, not just resolve but nimbleness. Because it’s looking like a long winter.

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