Popular Sacramento restaurants close as COVID omicron spreads

Well-known restaurants around Sacramento are temporarily closing, eliminating indoor dining and taking other drastic steps amid the COVID-19 omicron variant’s rapid spread.

Patrick Mulvaney spoke at a March 2021 press conference to ring in restaurant employees’ vaccine eligibility, encouraging his peers to get theirs. Everyone at Mulvaney and his wife Bobbin’s midtown restaurant, Mulvaney’s B&L, tested negative for the virus last Friday.

By Tuesday morning, enough staff had tested positive that Mulvaney’s B&L shut down for the rest of the week.

“We are disheartened, frustrated and angry but this is the right thing to do for everyone,” Mulvaney’s B&L said in a Facebook post. “This picture from 2005 gives us hope, you can see my old man in the photo behind the chair. Once when times were tough he told me to get over it (by saying) “When I was in high school we were fighting in Europe and Asia and life went on, you will be OK.’ I hope so Pop. Looking forward to welcoming everyone back.”

Ever-popular Tahoe Park brunch destination Bacon & Butter similarly closed Sunday, giving up one of its two lucrative weekend mornings, out of an abundance of caution, co-owners Billy Zoellin and Amber Michel said in a social media post.

After regularly scheduled closures Monday and Tuesday, the sibling owners extended their emergency shutdown through Wednesday and Thursday, with plans to reopen with exclusively to-go service on Friday.

“The recent rise of the (omicron) variant along with the increased opportunities for group gatherings, unmasked parties and holiday travel have led us to make this difficult decision,” Bacon & Butter said in the social media post. “We prioritize the health and safety of our staff and guests above all else, but that doesn’t diminish the sting of disappointing our Sunday guests.”

Beast + Bounty constructed one of the Sacramento region’s best pandemic-induced outdoor patios during 2020, taking over a midtown street with unfinished wood tables, compostable silverware and a snack shack-esque outdoor bar.

Former chef Brock MacDonald left Beast + Bounty during the pandemic to work at Nugget Markets and launch a burger pop-up, but recently came back to the New American restaurant at 1701 R St. Owner Michael Hargis had planned to stay closed from New Year’s Day through Jan. 6 to bring staff up to speed on MacDonald’s new menu.

Now that shutdown is being extended. Beast + Bounty won’t open for indoor or outdoor dining for the time being due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, according to posts on its Instagram and Facebook pages on Tuesday.

“Taking into account the health of our staff and our patrons, we think it is best to postpone our anticipated reopening,” the posts read. “As of right now we are hoping to reopen on Tuesday, January 11th but will continue to take things day by day. Thank you for being patient. Stay healthy and safe out there.”

Canon is doing away with indoor dining as well, but still seating people on its heated and covered outdoor patio. Station 16 is voluntarily reducing its indoor dining capacity to 25% of usual. Old Tavern Bar & Grill is closing from Tuesday until Friday to let staff get tested and deep-clean the bar’s interior.

California reported a 21.3% COVID-19 test positivity rate as of Monday morning with an average of 28,697 new daily cases, according to the state dashboard. Sacramento County testing sites are swamped, and libraries went through their stock of 90,000 at-home rapid tests by Wednesday morning after making them available Tuesday.

Social distancing shutdowns in 2020 and early 2021 financially crippled restaurants and caused many to shut down permanently. There’s little desire to close again, even for the ones voluntarily doing so.

“Just like you, we all can’t wait for this pandemic to become a distant memory,” Bacon & Butter’s Instagram post read. “For now, we will continue to stay safe and act responsibly.”

This story was originally published January 5, 2022 12:40 PM.

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Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A Sacramento native, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

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