That Pizza Place in St. Helena closed for two weeks after the fires in 2017. That meant substantial loss of business, though owners Kathryn and Tom Kenney were able to file an insurance claim that partially covered those damages.
After this week’s outages, though, the business is on its own.
The restaurant won’t re-open until Saturday, when it’ll be fully restocked, Kathryn Kenney said, describing the loss of “thousands of dollars’ worth” of perishable items. Closure during harvest time means facing daily losses of up to $1,200, but because the outage was a planned event, insurance won’t cover anything.
“According to PG&E, we were given ample time to get a generator or to find additional refrigeration,” she said, voicing frustration with the utility. “(But it’s not easy) when everyone else is trying to find one at the same time – plus, they’re very expensive.”
Purchasing a generator with the capacity to power a restaurant can be a serious financial undertaking for a small business. After losing power Wednesday, Hacienda Taqueria on Old Sonoma Road, purchased a $1,400 generator it hoped would power its facilities.
Despite managing to save some inventory, the restaurant still lost an estimated $7,000 worth of meat, according to manager Melissa Reyes. Hacienda was told by a PG&E representative on Tuesday it would likely not be impacted by the outages, leaving it with almost no time to prepare once staff arrived to find the power out Wednesday morning, she said.
State health department regulations mandate the standards for food safety in California, including refrigeration, dictating which items must be refrigerated, at what temperatures and for how long. Unable to meet those standards during the prolonged outages, some in the food industry have suffered two-fold, enduring loss of business and inventory.
“It really impacted us badly,” Reyes said. “We’re open today so we don’t lose any more business, but we’ll just have to wait and see (the true net loss).”
David Ortega, owner of Lola’s Market on Old Sonoma Road, estimated that he’d lost a staggering $70,000 in the outages at his Napa and Santa Rosa locations.
“(It’s) loss of sales, loss of product. And the employees lost out because they didn’t work. It’s a chain reaction for everyone,” said Ortega, who borrowed a refrigerated truck from a vendor for his Napa location and managed to save some of his perishables. “The vendors helped, or it would have been worse.”
He’s looking into purchasing a portable generator for the future.
Kenney with That Pizza Place says she and her husband also considered purchasing a generator, only to find it could cost them upwards of $2,000. Their business isn’t struggling financially, but an expense like that doesn’t exactly fit in their regular budget, especially considering losses this week, she added.
Southside Café owners Morgan and Irma Robinson lost power at two of their three locations: in Carneros and south Napa. They borrowed a friend’s generator to power three fridges and turned back shipments from suppliers for the two days they were closed.
“Having been through something worse with the fires, and knowing there would be an end … we took it in stride, and we’re grateful it wasn’t worse,” Irma Robinson said.
Even with what they managed to save, the Robinsons estimate they lost as much as $3,000 of inventory, and also had several canceled catering orders. Altogether, the adjustments to staffing and inventory at their restaurants could impact their monthly revenue by as much as 10%, Morgan Robinson said. They won’t know the full impact until the end of the month, and those losses will not be insurable.
Kenney said she and her husband will spend the next few days pulling everything together to open up Saturday, preparing ingredients, making pizza dough and purchasing new inventory. As small business owners, it’s been a stressful couple of days. Referencing the earthquake and the fires, Kenney wondered aloud how just much more disaster control That Pizza Place would have to do in the future.
“Hopefully it’ll be business as usual, and this won’t happen again,” she said, speaking of the week ahead. “I know what they’re saying, but (these outages) can’t be the new normal – that would really suck.”