Wet, Cold Weather Serves Up New Challenges to Struggling Restaurants

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Restaurants in six Bay Area counties that are now banned from serving customers indoors are also facing challenges with the wet weather and a shortage of propane for outdoor heaters.

At Mission City Grill in Santa Clara, staff on Monday put up a tent and purchased patio heaters, but because it was so windy Tuesday, they weren't able to set them up in time for lunch, making for chilly al fresco dining.

"It's a little bit chilly," customer Paul Majoulet said.

Without indoor dining, the restaurant is down nine tables.

"We're going to lose a lot of our capacity due to not having indoor [dining], but we're going to do the best we can with the outdoor [dining]," Mission City Grill General Manager Robert Ramirez said.

Ramirez said he was expecting the new restrictions that come with Santa Clara County now being in the purple reopening tier, but not so soon.

Staff scrambled to put up the tent, which they did correctly, according to the county. Outdoor restaurant tents are only supposed to have two sides to allow for plenty of air flow.

What is not flowing are the catering jobs booked for upcoming business meetings.

"When they went to the purple tier, I had a phone call and [the customer] basically said they had to cancel because all their meetings had been canceled, so we had to cancel the catering job," Ramirez said.

As for patio heaters, they are in short supply. Restaurant owners lucky enough to purchase them are having a hard time getting propane to fuel them.

For the first time ever, an Ace Hardware store in Los Gatos is limiting how much propane each person can buy.

"We had a restaurant who wanted to get 27 bottles of propane. We limit our sales to one bottle per person, per day," Bryan Matsumoto, co-cowner of the Ace Hardware store, said.

Restaurants owners said it can cost up to $240 a day for the propane to run the patio heaters.

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