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Craig Smith's Downtown Talk: Are downtown Napa visitors wearing masks?
Downtown Talk

Craig Smith's Downtown Talk: Are downtown Napa visitors wearing masks?

  • Updated

When all “this” started, out-of-town visitors didn’t always wear masks. It made for awkward and sometimes tense moments as people were gently reminded that, in Napa, we adhere to the guidelines.

That’s sure changed. If you were downtown over Presidents’ Day weekend, you noticed two things. One is that it was packed. There were people everywhere: on the sidewalks, in the shops and restaurants, or queued up to get into the shops and restaurants.

Happily, second is that they were social distancing, and virtually everybody was wearing a mask. It was almost like a switch was thrown and everybody suddenly got with the program. Refreshing, and welcomed for locals who have been in compliance all along.

Outdoor dining and wine tasting are going well. Many businesses have erected tents, leaving two sides open as COVID law requires, and using heaters to make the experience pleasant. A lot of people are discovering that drinking and dining outdoors are actually good things. Prediction – when this is over, outdoor dining won’t go away. It’s here to stay.

Early adapter…

Eileen Rinaldi, the owner of Ritual Coffee Roaster in the Oxbow Public Market, had a sense that “this” was going to be a game-changer.

Early on, she had a tall plastic shield built. It sits on top of and completely covers the counter area. The thing is practically bulletproof and means that you can interact with the baristas with complete safety confidence.

She even installed an intercom system so you can talk without having to shout through the plastic. And as always, you get one of the best cups of coffee in town. If you’ve avoided the Oxbow Market for the past year because of how crowded it can get, relax. They limit the number of people who can be indoors at any one time and you’ll have your temperature checked before you enter. Folks who generally don’t like crowds will be pleased.


People are starting to ask if there will be a Main Street Reunion car show, Blues Brews and BBQ, Christmas parade or anything else this year. The answer is – we don’t know yet. Holding BB&BBQ while social distancing and wearing masks? Ah, no. Besides, lots of things have to come together before we’d even get a green flag to proceed.

The city and county aren’t likely to issue permits for events until it is absolutely, undeniably safe to do so. The board of the Downtown Napa Association will wait as long as they can before cancelling anything. If things look good by June 1, the longest they can wait and still organize the car show and BB&BBQ, they will be a go. Otherwise…

Either way, another prediction: 2022 is going to be a fun year.

See you downtown!


When Will It Be Safe to See Vaccinated Loved Ones?. Despite the fact that the vaccine is a step toward normalcy, it will not eradicate the coronavirus just yet. Here are a few reasons to hold off on reuniting with friends and family and when you may be in the clear to see them. While the vaccinated person won’t get sick, it may still be possible for them to spread the virus and infect others. The vaccine trials only looked at symptomatic cases, so its efficacy against asymptomatic cases remains unknown. Vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks. If you do decide to see a vaccinated loved one, be sure to wait a couple weeks after they receive their second dose


Craig Smith is the executive director of the Downtown Napa Association. Reach him at 257-0322 or

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