Berkeley's landmark restaurant Chez Panisse has decided not to reopen its dining room next month as planned, but is putting off a full reopening until next year.
Back in June, when things were looking rosier for the pandemic in California, Chez Panisse announced that its reservation books would be opening in September, in preparation for an October reopening of its dining rooms. But at a small event in late August to mark the restaurant's 50th anniversary, staff and owner Alice Waters skirted the question of when, exactly, reservations were coming available, as Berkeleyside noted. And on Wednesday afternoon, the restaurant announced its decision via Instagram, saying that both the downstairs and the cafe would reopen at the same time "shortly after the new year."
"Thank you all for your patience as we have been maneuvering towards this complicated decision around the reopening of our dining room," the team writes.
"In short, we have decided to keep doing the take-out food and Sunday market until the end of the year."
They say the reason behind the decision "can be distilled to COVID, the surge of the Delta variant, and their many implications."
The post cites employees with kids in school and quarantine requirements that have arisen from school outbreaks, as well as staff safety and "worries about unvaccinated family members." Also, there are the "restrictive and constantly changing safety protocols, the financial challenges of reduced capacity," and concerns about whether you can even properly ventilate the low-ceilinged downstairs space at all, for COVID safety.
It sounds as though there was a fair bit of tension and disagreement among the staff over whether to reopen this fall, and "across all levels of staff and management, there are varying degrees of readiness," they say.
"The ideal scenario this fall is that COVID cases drop, vaccines become available to younger children, and the restaurant industry settles into these new cultural paradigms," the team continues. "Perhaps that will take more time than we are able to wait and we will eventually open despite the great uncertainty that many of us currently still feel."
Chez Panisse is a sizable operation, with two kitchens — upstairs and down — and two staffs, and it's not clear to what extent the staffing issues that many Bay Area restaurants have had in recent months may have contributed to the decision as well. A number of high-end San Francisco restaurants that had remained closed through all of the pandemic, including Benu and Quince, have reopened in recent weeks.
In the meantime, you can order takeout lunch and dinner from the restaurant — with preorders available two days ahead — or stop by the Sunday market from noon to 3 p.m., where you can buy prepared meals as well as farm boxes, and more. This Sunday they're highlighting masas and handmade tortillas from Bolita Masa (which also makes Thursday appearances in SF at the CUESA Mission Community Market.)
Photo via Instagram