DANVILLE — A Danville restaurant that was one of many that defied local health orders, was ordered to close after repeated violations.

Contra Costa County health officials confirmed Incontro Ristorante on Hartz Avenue in Danville was cited seven times for violations of the county health order that currently does not allow outdoor dining, and had their health permit suspended last week.

After the county shut down the restaurant last week, on Tuesday, the permit was reinstated and the restaurant was allowed to reopen but only for takeout and delivery. ABC7 News reported the restaurant faced thousands in fines and had stayed open in order to help their employees keep a job. The owners of Incontro did not respond to requests for comment.

Incontro was one of several downtown Danville restaurants that defied health orders last month and continued to operate their outdoor dining services, despite a call from the county to shut it down. Only takeout and delivery for restaurants is currently allowed under current COVID-19 restrictions.

Restaurants said they were struggling to keep their businesses afloat and allowing only take-out or delivery wasn’t enough to cover their costs.

One such restaurant was Crumbs on Railroad Avenue, which at first allowed outdoor dining in December despite the county’s order. Co-owner Amy Sidhom said in an interview Wednesday that they are open now for takeout and delivery only, but keep their patio seating open on weekends for customers who might want a table to eat their food there. She compared it to a park bench in that there is no service– no waiters or waitresses taking orders, plates or silverware —  just tables and chairs. Food consumption on the premises is still not allowed under the current health order.

“We’re using our patio like a picnic area,” she said.

Crumbs has only received warnings so far, but no fines, Sidhom said.

The restaurant at one point held an awareness campaign by displaying names and stories of their employees on chairs on the sidewalks — such as one who has six children, or one who is putting herself through nursing school.

“It’s a reminder, a lot are privileged enough to stay home. But many who are affected don’t have that luxury,” Sidhom said.

She contested the notion that the restaurants are holding these protests or defiance just for financial gain.

“The truth is we’re opening just to pay our bills. Our rent stays the same, no matter what the health order is,” she said. “I’m not getting rich.”

She noted that for take-out and delivery, she needs a much smaller staff, meaning she can’t employ as many people as when they provide outdoor or indoor dining. When outdoor dining was permitted and the city allowed them to expand services to the sidewalk or even the street, it made a “huge difference” for business, having nearly as much capacity as when indoor dining was allowed, she said.

Some Danville restaurants joined in on petitioning the county, asking to be allowed to open for Christmas. But Sidhom said the petition was denied.

Other restaurants throughout Contra Costa County filed a lawsuit against the county to overturn the county health order for outdoor dining. A judge indicated in mid-December he wasn’t likely to halt the county’s outdoor dining ban.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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