On Oct. 27 Santa Cruz County entered the Orange Tier of the state’s Covid-19 reopening plan. The lowered rate of positive tests has enabled many more businesses to open with precautions, such as indoor waxing and bookstores, and increased capacity at restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship.
Co-owner of Steel Bonnet Brewing Company, Donald Cramb, said he is relieved to open his business outdoors. Occasionally, the Scotts Valley brewery could host patrons, with the addition of food trucks in accordance with the newest Covid policies. However, even with those allowances, business has greatly slowed.
“Our revenue has been down 50% since closing,” Cramb said. “We leased a large production space down in Salinas, just before Shelter-in-Place, and we’ve put off plans to develop it.”
Cramb hopes business will pick up under the newest protocols, but “plans on taking it nice and slow.”
“We’re gradually opening and not making a big fuss,” he said. “Our employees are smart and compliant with the new process, and so are our customers.”
The Alcoholic Beverage Control and City of Scotts Valley have allowed Steel Bonnet to expand their outdoor space, with enough room for 10 or 12 tables with up to six household members at each.
State regulations have also loosened up for Hallcrest Vineyards. However, unlike Steel Bonnet, not much will change for the historic Felton winery.
According to Lorraine Schumacher, despite the new allowance for indoor tasting, Hallcrest will continue to serve almost exclusively outside.
“We’ve always served outside, even before Covid,” she said. “Our tasting room isn’t very large and it’s so beautiful outside. That’s where everyone wants to be, so we’ve actually been busier during the pandemic.”
While new Covid regulations haven’t greatly affected the Hallcrest clientele, the Vineyard is struggling with retail sales. Schumacher reports a 90% loss in retail sales, which make up 60-70% of their income.
“Restaurants and bars aren’t putting out orders,” she said. “We had to layoff all of our staff and that was before losing three weeks of retail due to wildfire evacuations.”
Most other breweries and distilleries are taking things slow. Cramb reports that other companies, such as Discretion Brewing in Santa Cruz, share his wary sentiments.
“No one is jumping in with both feet. We’re all being very cautious,” he said. “If things go poorly, as we open up, we can be shut down at any time. Everyone is taking things slow.”
To get in on the buzz, pick up some fresh brew or stop for a drink from noon-8pm on the weekends and 3pm-8pm on the weekdays…Try the popular Queen Anne Hazy IPA or Cramb’s new personal favorite, the Bear Creek Brown Ale, which 30% of profits support CZU Fire victims.
WHAT OFFICIALS ARE SAYING
The move to the Orange tier means that the county is seeing 1-3.9 new cases per 100,00 in population. Previously, the county was in the “Substantial” or red category, which is designated for those with 4-7 new cases per 100,000.
“We are doing very good about where we are as a county in terms of our Covid response,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said during a press conference on Oct. 27.
Despite the good news, Newel said that the lessened restrictions do not mean that people should stop practicing safety measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. This includes wearing face masks, social distancing and avoiding large group gatherings.
“This does not indicate that you are any safer when you are out and about in our community,” she said. “This is not some kind of magic change in our community. You need to remember to take all the same precautions that you are taking already.”
Also during the press conference, Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency Director Mimi Hall said that the County is seeking to open an additional Covid-19 testing site in north Santa Cruz County with a capacity of 165 tests per day.