Waves of Smoke and Bad Air Rattle San Rafael Businesses


Daniel Dunn, Contributor

With the unavoidable Covid-19 pandemic, restaurants are relying heavily on their outdoor seating. Health protocols have forced businesses to move seating to the outdoors and space the tables. Covid by itself already brings down local businesses, but smoke from the wildfires burning around the Bay Area is causing many to stay away from dining.

These fires in Northern California started because there was a dry lightning storm. With already warm weather and very dry conditions, lightning strikes came through and 367 new fires started. 

Justin Szlamnik, employee at Vin Antico, said they shut down their outside seating during their most busy days because of the air quality.

“We have definitely had a lot less people coming through work and definitely a lot less revenue. Just with the beginning of coronavirus there were less people since we couldn’t sit inside. We had to sit as many tables as we could outside that the city would let us. So it’s been down on revenue to begin with and the smoke didn’t help at all,” Szlamnik said.

Luckily these businesses have a lot of support from the community with the shutdown of the dining for those couple days.

“I do a lot more deliveries, we started this whole delivery program since it started to get smokey and no one would come through,” Szlamnik said.

People in the community are helping out businesses that rely on dining by ordering deliveries to give them some income.

Szlamnik said, “Our regulars come through, so that’s very nice. Takeouts help with our revenue.”

Yure Martins, a resident of Greenbrae, talks about how he cannot go out to his favorite restaurants with his friends. 

“I have been ordering a lot more takeout and delivery to help out my favorite restaurants. Not only does this stop me from dining, it also stops me from getting rid of energy. I haven’t been able to get out and exercise and I have not been able to stay out for long periods of time because the smoke bothers my lungs,” said Martins.

This smoke has not only hurt businesses in the Bay Area but also people not being able to do things they could before outside their homes. 

On the other hand, some businesses that have relied on deliveries since the start of Covid-19 have been gaining revenue from the terrible air quality. Many people are ordering more deliveries and takeout. 

Johnny Vantress, an employee at Extreme Pizza, says they get a lot more deliveries and takeout during the time of the bad air quality.

“Not as many people have come into the restaurant to dine, but a lot more people have been ordering pizzas to get delivered, because they have just been staying inside their house. That has helped in a way because that has given us a lot more business and deliveries through delivery instead of actual dining in, and especially on weekends,” Vantress said.

Restaurants that rely heavily on deliveries have been pretty busy during these hard times of the bad air quality and are gaining business. Vantress said that they have up to 4 delivery drivers on weekends and every night they are very busy and nonstop.