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Napa County shuts down indoor dining at Fumé Bistro & Bar
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Napa County shuts down indoor dining at Fumé Bistro & Bar

After two nights of on-premise dining — in defiance of Napa County’s COVID-19 public health order — Napa’s Fumé Bistro & Bar ceased offering sit-down meals on Wednesday.

“The county exerted some extreme pressure for us to stop,” Terry Letson, Fumé co-owner, said on Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, Letson said that he had no choice but to reopen for dine-in services.

“We’re all suffering,” Letson said at the time, adding that take-out isn’t enough to sustain his restaurant and employees.

“If we don’t keep our restaurant full, we go out of business,” he said. By using the proper precautions, he said he he could safely serve his customers.

This past Monday and Tuesday nights, the restaurant served approximately 60 meals, compared to about 150 on a normal night, said Letson.

Regardless, his employees “were so excited to be working,” he said.

Letson was happy as well. “This is great,” he recalled thinking.

By Wednesday afternoon it was over.

Letson would not elaborate on what the county said or did to ensure his compliance with the order. A Los Angeles Times story noted that restaurants that reopened their dining rooms prematurely ran the risk of losing their liquor licenses. However, Letson said that’s not what caused him to close in-person dining.

“The bottom line is (the county was) able to stop us,” said Letson. “We still do our take-out. But that’s not going to pay the bills.”

Napa County did not return a request for a comment on Thursday afternoon.

Letson’s decision to reopen was announced at the same time the Quent Cordair Fine Art gallery also decided to reopen in Napa. The art gallery business owners also argued against her gallery, classified by the county as a non-essential businesses, could operate safely, allowing no more than six customers at a time.

The open-shut status of Quent Cordair could not be confirmed Thursday afternoon.

This week’s news of Fumé’s rogue reopening made headlines across the state. The restaurant was featured in a series of stories from other newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and Press Democrat in Santa Rosa.

“We’ve been patient,” said Letson on Monday. However, “we don’t feel that Napa County (COVID-19) statistics warrant a closure.”

Letson said to ensure safe dining at Fumé, he removed half of the dining tables and added new safety measures including taking the temperatures of employees and using paper napkins.

The business is open only for dinner.

“We’re taking a lot of precautions to be safe,” he said then. “But if people aren’t comfortable yet, they are more than welcome to stay home.”

Letson was asked on Monday if he was worried about catching the attention from city or county authorities.

“Of course I am,” he said at the time. “But that doesn’t outweigh how I feel about reopening the business.”

Quent Cordair Fine Art remains open for business, said owner Linda Cordair.

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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