Winds, cool weather bring more hardship to Valley's restaurant owners

It's just been one challenge after another for restaurant owners ever since the pandemic began.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Restaurant owners first had to deal with smoke and high temperatures while serving customers outside.

Now, they face cold air and wind, meaning they have to spend more money to make these patios comfortable.

It's just been one challenge after another and they say they need to be able to bring more people inside if they're going to survive.

The patio of Vino Grille and Spirits in northeast Fresno is getting ready for a busy Friday night.

Owner Chuck Van Fleet, however, has had to make some changes.

As temperatures drop and COVID capacity restrictions remain in place in Fresno County, he's had to add portable heaters and order a tent to cover his patio.

"We've had to bring tables down and bring portable heaters out here," he says.

"We're fortunate because we have a good patio, but the tent costs $3000 a month. The thing is last year it was easier when I was doing banquets for 50 or 60, but I'm only going to be able to seat 40 people at one time," he says.

Restaurant owners not only face cooler temperatures ahead, but on Friday, high winds also caused poor air quality across the Valley.

Van Fleet, who's also the president of the restaurant association in Fresno, says at this rate, businesses won't survive if they can't bring in more people.

In Madera, the kitchen is bustling inside Sals Mexican Restaurant, yet tables inside are empty.

They face even more restrictions as the county is still in the Purple tier, meaning they can only serve customers outside.

The manager says they plan to get heaters in next week, but say they need to start serving inside soon.

County supervisor Robert Poythress says he spoke with state officials Friday in the hopes of getting the county to the less restrictive red tier.

"The state's equity plan is not equitable for poor counties. We don't have the resources others have to fight COVID. Let's put all our resources in the city of Madera to fight it locally rather than spreading it out in areas that are unnecessary," he says.

Poythress says they hope to hear back from the state on shifting tiers next Tuesday.
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