August is a big time for Wine Country businesses, particularly restaurants and hotels, as tourists begin to descend on Napa and Sonoma valleys in advance of the crush season. It’s early, but area businesses say Sunday’s earthquake could have a huge effect on tourism, either by scaring tourists away or because damage has forced businesses to close their doors.
But, say many, the show will still go on.
“We’ll be open by tomorrow night,” said Bettina Rouas, owner of Angele Restaurant and Bar on Napa’s Main Street, one of the hardest-hit areas. “The first and most important thing is that everybody is OK and nobody was hurt and this didn’t happen during business hours. But there’s going to be a period of recovery. We lost 75 percent of our wine cellar.”
Rouas said she feels fortunate that her restaurant, which is located in an 1800s boathouse on the Napa River, didn’t sustain more damage.
“A lot of people got hit really hard,” she said. “It’s really awful.”
Across the river, the famed Oxbow Public Market, home to several restaurants and shops, lost power for most of Sunday. Several of its businesses fought to save perishables until the electricity was restored.
Peter Chenaux, the kitchen manager of Fatted Calf, a meat and fine foods purveyor at Oxbow, said workers managed to save all their meat but lost some products from their display wall in the shop.
“We spent a lot of the day cleaning everything up and praying the power would get turned back on,” Chenaux said, adding they kept the walk-in freezers closed to preserve their meat. “We’re planning on being open tomorrow, though. In general, I think we were lucky.”
Chenaux said a stream of people came by the shop all day hoping mostly to find something to eat as many of the usual places were closed. Next door’s Model Bakery is a local favorite for Sunday morning coffee and pastries, and several people left disappointed.
“They probably lost a ton of business,” he said. “But like I said, I think everybody here feels like it could have been worse.”
As the day wore on, tourists and locals headed into downtown Napa to check out the damage. Many were also looking for a meal. Longtime local fixture Filippi’s Pizza Grotto was one of the few places that was open. Employees arrived in the morning to find most of the bar “all over the floor,” said bartender Rita Deyerle, but they cleaned up and were open by 3 p.m., about an hour after the power was turned back on.
“We’ve been packed all day,” Deyerle said as people waited outside for more than a half-hour to get a table. “It’s been crazy.”
Lydia Stafford of Jordan Winery said some people had canceled tastings for today and tomorrow.
“They were so freaked out that they decided to fly back home to New York and cut their vacation short,” she said.
Tom Swakkers of Holland arrived in San Francisco on Saturday night, hours before the earthquake hit, with plans to head up to Napa for Sunday. He said he had heard about California earthquakes but never thought he’d actually be in one.
“You read about them in Lonely Planet but you never think it’s going to happen while you’re there,” he said. “Well I can check that off my list.”
Swakkers and his traveling companion, Saida Gaibulina, found themselves walking through Napa on Sunday evening looking for wine and food and finding slim pickings.
“You don’t think you’re going to come to Wine Country and not be able to find a glass of wine,” he said.
Local hotels who lost power or sustained damage were scrambling to find rooms for their guests. Hotel Andaz said they moved all their guests by midday to various area hotels.
Jeff Perry of the Napa Winery Inn said his hotel was full Sunday morning when the earthquake hit. By Sunday evening, they still had no hot water and weren’t accepting new reservations. But, he said, most of his guests had stayed on.
“We had a great group here — everybody was calm and understanding,” he said. “We didn’t sustain too much other damage. We’re trying to help local hotels if they need it and also any locals who need a place to stay. As long as they don’t mind not having hot water.”
Wineries took hits all over the area but not everybody suffered. AMEDEO, which stores and ships wines directly to consumers for smaller wineries, lost exactly one bottle from its 85,000 case inventory.
“We got lucky beyond belief,” said Michael Greenlee, AMEDEO’s owner who drove up at 5 a.m. with his partner Keiko Niccolini from San Francisco to their warehouse in Napa. “We thought for sure everything would be damaged — we’re right on the epicenter. It was incredible. Good planning was part of it but luck played a big role too.”
(c)2014 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.