Fresno restaurant owners preparing for county to move back into 'purple' tier

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Yosemite Ranch in northeast Fresno is fully remodeled and back open for business.

Some seating is available inside but many guests are ushered to their seats in a large tent in the parking lot.

"Each server has to schlep all the food over there, so it's a lot of walking," says owner Dave Fansler. "Plus, you are walking through the elements to get there. Our humble little tent over here is $12,000 a month as it sits."

Owning a restaurant, much less three, has been difficult during the pandemic. For Fansler, creating an environment that's intimate and warm has been expensive.

"Every single week we've got a new challenge; there's the weather challenge, we've got the cost challenge," he said.

Now adding to that cost are patio heaters. The stress to survive is constant, and Fansler is fortunate he's able to afford to continue operating Westwoods Barbecue, Pismo's Coastal Grill and Yosemite Ranch.

"It's just an unbelieveable amount of money to just scrape out a little tiny living through this whole thing," he said. "It's really, really tough on everybody. I feel tough for all the restaurants in Fresno."

Chuck Van Fleet, owner of Vino Grille and Spirits, says in December alone, he will lose $150,000 in holiday banquets that are now canceled.

Van Fleet is also President the California Restaurant Association's Fresno Chapter and he says some restaurants will never make it through another shutdown of any kind.

"Unless we have indoor dining, even at 25 percent, there's a lot of restaurants that won't make it until the end of the year," he said. "They'll close before the end of the year."

Van Fleet doesn't like how restaurants are the victims of rising rates of COVID. The latest news makes his stomach turn.

"Fresno moving back into the purple looks inevitable," he said. "The problem with that is the weather outside. So you're losing all your seating on the inside and then the weather outside is below 60."

Already, the cold spell has curbed outdoor eating. And it's expected to even more sparse as December approaches.

The next numbers come out next Tuesday. If Fresno moves back into purple, restaurants would be forced to end indoor dining by Friday.
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