Hemet Valley restaurants continue to offer limited outdoor service due to coronavirus

A server at Abby’s Restaurant in Valle Vista answers a question from a diner who is seated outside the restaurant to comply with state orders against indoor dining due to the Riverside County’s recent surge in coronavirus cases. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

Many Hemet Valley restaurants offering dine-in service are working hard to adjust to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders to serve customers outdoors only due to the rise in Riverside County coronavirus infections. While some are offering outside dining options, many restaurants remain open offering take-out service if the ability to provide sit-down service is not an option

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the change Monday, July 20, during a news conference.

Area restaurants have struggled to find ways to offer their services outdoors without disrupting pedestrian or motor traffic, while maintaining required city business codes and federal, state and county health requirements.

For some restaurants, which have offered dine-in services since their reopening in the past few weeks, business was halted after the July 20 order. While many larger restaurants have managed to find ways to comply with the new state orders, some smaller drive-in and family restaurants have also found ways to continue serving with only a few outdoor tables and a return to takeout service.

“We live day to day,” Mimi Sanous, co-owner of Pop’s Country Cafe in Hemet, said. “We don’t know anything anymore.”

Harvard Street Cafe and Restaurant in downtown Hemet provides takeout orders but offers outdoor dining at their often-sanitized tables along the sidewalk in compliance with state orders against indoor dining. Valley News/Tony Ault photo
Tammy Kane, manager of Pop’s Country Café, serves a customer at an outdoor table, which meets recent state health orders against indoor dining. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

Her cafe has suffered a 50% loss in business since dine-in service was stopped. Her takeout business continues, and she set up four tables on the sidewalk outside the business which are most always filled, she said, but inside the restaurant, all the tables are shoved against the wall and the chairs turned upside down on the tables. A single table provides space for takeout orders to be picked up but everything else except the kitchen and the cash counter is closed.

Tammy Kane, manager of Pop’s Country Café, said, “This shouldn’t be. We should be inside; there is no difference. Changes have been made to clean everything.”

Kane said she was not happy with the latest decision to limit dining to the outdoors.

“Here we are for two weeks (open for inside dining), and now he (Newsom) stopped it again. I have been affected a lot. I get less than one-half my tips now. We even had a cook that quit because he gets $600 a week from unemployment, more than he made here,” Kane said.

One of Pop’s customers, Chris Lang, sat outside enjoying a large omelet.

Lang said, “I like it, but I think we should eat anywhere we want.”

Abby’s Restaurant, which also enjoyed a busy dine-in service previously, set up tables on the sidewalk in front of the business.

Donna Leonard, a customer at Abby’s Restaurant in Valle Vista, agreed but said, “I would be happy just to eat on the roof.”

Her husband Mike Leonard said, “Not much else we can do these days.”

Claudia Adkins, another customer of Abby’s Restaurant, said, “We do enjoy it. But I would like just to eat inside again.”

A masked customer waits for his takeout order at Pop’s Country Cafe in Hemet. Valley News/Tony Ault photo
Polly’s Pies in Hemet proclaims its takeout services and a new outdoor dining experience in keeping with state orders prohibiting all indoor dining due to the surge in coronavirus cases in Riverside County. Valley News/Tony Ault photo
The large tent in the parking lot of the Hemet Valley Mall serves as an outdoor dining area for Polly’s Pies in Hemet now that indoor dining is prohibited by the state and county health authorities due to a surge in coronavirus cases in Riverside County. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

All of the customers were helped by a server wearing a mask and gloves, and a kitchen worker sanitized the table after each diner left.

Polly’s Pies outside of the Hemet Valley Mall erected a large tent as a sun shelter in the parking lot on the east side of the business and installed a Super Kool machine for their outside customers. Nearly every one of their outdoor tables were filled despite the 80-plus degree morning temperatures.

Michael Saunders, general manager of Polly’s Pies, said, “We’ve done better,” but he was pleased with the outdoor business thus far.

“I was thinking about putting up another tent, but not sure about the city giving the OK. It’s really a challenge for sure,” he said.

The tent covers five parking places next to the restaurant that are seldom used.

Art Lester and his wife Cheryl sat at an outdoor table.

“It’s good to get a little sunshine,” he said.

“Yep, it’s better than tuna sandwiches at home,” Cheryl Lester said.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.