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Outdoor restaurant dining slows in Solvang with heat and smoke

Peasant's Feast in Solvang
KEYT/Anikka Abbott
Restaurants see less patio diners and more take-out with heavy smoke and high heat.

SOLVANG, Calif. - Many businesses moved outdoors during the pandemic, but with rising heat and smoke this week, fewer people are spending time outdoors.

It's making air quality very poor and affecting businesses operating outside. Restaurant owners in Solvang said they are seeing less people dining on their patios because of the smoke and heat.

"We had quite a few to-go orders in the beginning of the day," said Michael Cherney, chef and owner of Peasant's Feast in Solvang. "We actually had a line set up, which we haven't had a line in quite a while for to-go orders just because everyone has been using the patio so much."

Indoor dining is still not allowed because of a public health order from the state. So restaurants are changing their menus to keep customers cool.

"We're introducing colder dishes, ice cream dishes, trying to go with the flow," said Francisco Velazquez, chef and owner of Ramen Kotori in Solvang. "It's kind of a different thing every day. You never know what to expect."

Wednesdays are normally a very busy day in Solvang with the farmer's market, but on days with a lot of heat and smoke, barely anybody is walking downtown. Restaurants are receiving less foot traffic.

Some people are changing their dining plans from restaurant patio dining to homemade dinner inside.

"There's a farmer's market down the street this way, and a lady there has fresh heirloom tomatos," said Amy Watt, a tourist. "So I thought how about make an heirloom tomato salad with some fresh bruschetta."

Restaurants are also facing the possibility of power outages from rotating blackouts with the high demand for electricity surpassing the power grid's capacity.

"We're also definitely cutting back on ordering," said Cherney. "We're getting a lot less product, but more frequently, so that in the chance it does go out, we don't have to replenish everything at once."

Restaurant owners hope the heat and smoke clear away soon.

In the Santa Ynez valley, the air quality is moderate and in Santa Maria, it is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

You do want to avoid being outside in the area, and if you do have to go outside, wear an N95 mask. You can expect this smoke to linger for the next couple of days, depending on how the fire fight is progressing.

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Anikka Abbott

Anikka Abbott is a weather anchor and reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Anikka, click here.


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