Bars react with grace after California governor calls for shutdown

Hours after California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked for bars, nightclubs and wineries to shut down, Bay Area breweries responded without a whimper.

That's despite the obvious hardship these small businesses will suffer with shuttered doors and the workers who won't be picking up regular paychecks during the coronavirus outbreak. 

On Monday morning, The Avenue on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland wrote simply on its Facebook page, "Miss you already." 

In a phone interview from home, owner Curtis Howard, said that he and his wife, Tana, stayed up all night talking about whether to shutter their doors after hearing the governor's plea. They ultimately decided to close after they talked to their employees, calling them each one by one.

"They all said, 'We think we can get through this,' " Howard said. "We did this as a group. We all thought it would be selfish to try to stay open." 

As for how they would get by with no money, Howard said that he and his wife will somehow get by, and they are working to get their bartenders side jobs in construction or paying them a bit to come in an clean. 

Howard said that he hopes other bars will heed the warning, since Newsom's call was voluntary. "If more bars do this, the closure won't be for as long," he said. 

That volutatary status changed later on Monday afternoon, however, with six Bay Area counties issued an unprecedented legal order that any non-essential worker must stay home. 

California Gov. Newsom calls for bars to close

The Kingfish Pub in Oakland also didn't complain.

"We’ll reopen and raise our glasses down the road, toasting to this being behind us," the pub wrote on Facebook. "In the meantime, keep well."

The Starline Social Club located on the corner of Martin Luther King and West Grand Avenue in Oakland, closed at 9 p.m. Sunday, something they've never done before.

"We take a knee for the community and cross our fingers that everyone stays ok and that we can reopen," the bar wrote on Facebook. "We agree that by taking collective action now we can help stop the spread of this virus and help protect the most vulnerable." As for its 65 employees, the club said that if the community wants to send them tips, they can send an email to 

Carolyn Genco, a customer drinking a cocktail near Lake Tahoe, said she hopes there’s a plan to help out bartenders and other workers who will lose paychecks during the crisis.

“I think the closures are the right thing to do. So what if I can’t go to a bar?” Genco said. “I have friends in Italy and I know what they’re dealing with over there. We’re behind the curve here, and we need to do more to take precautions.”

The president of Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco, which represents some bartenders and hotel workers, urged politicians not to leave workers behind.

"Businesses and the government must take seriously their responsibility to support workers who already live paycheck-to-paycheck, now face lost income, and whose access to health care is in jeopardy,”  Local 2 President Anand Singh said in a statement. 

Employees can file for unemployment during the outbreak as well. The govenor's order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period. 

Restaurants were affected too, after Newsom strongly urged them to limit hours and restrict capacitiy to half.

"Going to half capacity is really going to hurt us," said Ninah Saleh, general manager of Main Street Kitchen in Walnut Creek. "We thrive on the lunch rush."

She said she loved the idea of loyal customers banding together to buy gift cards to help them stay afloat. 

"We know we're going to be back," Saleh said.

KTVU's Elissa Harrington contributed to this report. Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez