Restaurants, Businesses Try to Find New Normal Amid Fire Devastation

Restaurants and shops that were spared by the Wine Country fires are reopening this week, signaling a shift as the community struggles to return to business-as-usual following mass devastation and loss of life. 

World-famous restaurant The French Laundry will re-open Tuesday. The Yountville eatery, which has earned three Michelin stars, closed last week out of respect for its employees and due to a slate of power outages. Still, staff stayed on site at the bakery to serve first responders. 

"Everyone is working to normalize our situation in these extreme times," wrote restaurant staff on the company's Instagram. 

Bouchon, R+ D Kitchen, Red, Ad Hoc, and Redd Wood are among the other tourist-friendly destination spots that are opening their doors. Together, they make up some of the most sought-after destination spots for vacationers in Napa County and Sonoma County, which relies heavily on its tourism-based economy. 

Boosted by better weather, firefighters have made significant gains in controlling the deadly wildfires, which left at least 41 dead and scorched more than 200,000 acres. But it's not over yet. More than 34,000 people remain evacuated across Northern California. Hundreds, possibly thousands, will eventually return to their homes to find only charred wreckage and ash. 

It's too soon to tell the full extent of the damage and its consequences for the local economy, but scores of businesses and restaurants perished in flames, too. Employees who lost their homes may also be forced to relocate. 

The Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, located in Santa Rosa, was completely obliterated by the flames. Its 130 employees, most of whom work on an hourly-basis, are out of a job.

Lenora Olson, head of HR for the company, posted on Facebook that she was hoping to find other local work for the employees. The post was shared more than 7,000 times, drawing hundreds of comments and offers of employment. 

"Words cannot describe how much it means to me," Olson wrote in an update. 

Other companies include the Fountaingrove Inn and the K-Mart Department Store in Santa Rosa. Head over to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat for a more comprehensive list.

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