BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – It’s a Kern County tradition, the night before Thanksgiving hundreds hop from one East Bakersfield restaurant to another in what is often called the Basque crawl. That crawl will look very different this year.
“The night before Thanksgiving is the biggest night of the year for us,” said Rod Crawford, Owner of Pyrenees Cafe. “It’s the basque crawl, you have the basque triangle, all the restaurants in the area. All the kids and the family get back together and they have a giant reunion.”
The Basque crawl is an opportunity for locals to go out, connect with friends, and celebrate Thanksgiving. It starts the night before, but often extends into the weekend. Hundreds eat lunch at Luigi’s … on East 19th Street and continue to the basque restaurants until early the next morning.
“Ya I mean those restaurants have been here forever and we’re all kind of a big family in a way,” said Gino Valpredo, Owner of Luigi’s.
This year – all that has changed. The first change came in April – when the Noriega Hotel on Sumner Street closed for good. It was a popular stop on the Basque crawl and one of Bakersfield’s oldest restaurants.
Of the two other basque restaurants still in the neighborhood – only Pyrenees on Sumner remains open.
”This year it’s going to be totally different,” Crawford said. “Because of COVID, we don’t get to sit family style, we have to separate everybody 6 ft apart, 6-8 people at a table.”
Wool Growers Basque Restaurant temporarily closed a few days ago after some employees got the coronavirus.
“Wool growers is a big part of it,” Valpredo said. “It’s just sad, it’s the time of year in this business that you rely on those months. We usually sometimes it’s equivalent to 2.5 times our regular month, so for them to be closed down at this time is sad.”
Anyone hoping to stop at Pyrenees the night before Thanksgiving has to make a reservation. Crawford says he says he doesn’t agree with the 10pm curfew, but he’ll enforce it so his restaurant doesnt get shut down.
“We’re shutting down the restaurant at 10 o’clock as soon as everybody’s done eating, everyone’s going to have to leave.”
Luigi’s says they’re running as usual.
“We always have COVID on the backside of our shoulder,” Valpredo said. “But people are still going to go out, they’re going to see old friends, they’re still going to have cocktails, they’re still going to enjoy each others company and everyones going to have a good time.”