Big Sky Cafe kept business running during yet another stay-at-home order by selling food in cardboard to-go boxes.

About a week ago, however, Big Sky chef and owner Greg Holt said he heard a rumor going around that the stay-at-home order might be lifted and outdoor service could come back for his restaurant.

“I was like a little kid who just discovered Christmas is a day away,” Holt said. “I was so happy.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted regional stay-at-home orders on Jan. 25 in response to improving COVID-19 conditions across the state, according to the California Department of Public Health. Now under the “Purple Tier” of Newsom’s plan, many businesses in San Luis Obispo are able to expand services that were limited under the regional stay-at-home order, according to the County of San Luis Obispo’s press release

Businesses such as barbershops and hair and nail salons may reopen to offer indoor services, whereas businesses such as gyms, wineries and restaurants are only allowed to open with outdoor services. Retail stores may also increase their capacity to 25%, according to a county press release.

Shauna Terry, a hair stylist at Elevate Studio in Templeton, said she is excited to be able to work again.

“I’m super happy about it,” Terry said. “It’s been really hard being in the salon industry this last year with multiple closures.”

She said that she and her coworkers have all obtained a sanitation license from the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and have been trained in sanitation to prepare for the reopening. 

“We are very clean and wear a mask and feel we can keep our clients safe coming in,” Terry said. 

She said she feels that opening up hair salons to the public again can be a mental health boost for people.

“I think it’s a great place for people feeling isolated to come and get pampered and have somebody to talk to make them feel so much better during this time,” Terry said.

Dana Stepanek, the general manager of Bliss Cafe, said she is keeping the restaurant’s operations as consistent as possible. 

“Whatever restrictions we’re in whether we are in purple or red or orange here, it’s been easiest for us to just maintain consistent operation,” Stepanek said. “So we will continue to operate as if we were still in the higher restriction.”

Stepanek said she is worried that there may be more shutdowns in the future. 

“Until we are really out of the woods with COVID we’re just going to maintain as if it were at its worst,” Stepanek said. 

Greg Holt at Big Sky Cafe said this past shutdown was an “even bigger challenge” than the previous one.

“[For] most restaurants, it’s all about the rhythm,” Holt said. 

Before this last shutdown, he said that his employees had got into a good routine with their service outside and making sure to sanitize and wear personal protective equipment, but that rhythm was interrupted with another shutdown.

“The second shutdown, really, it was, not to be over the top or anything, but it was a gut wrencher to us,” Holt said. “But we know it was for the best of our community and our world.”

Holt said he is excited for the personal connection to return. He said he can’t wait to actually serve people at tables rather than saying, “‘here’s your food, you have to go now.’”

“We’ve always been just a little bit more than a restaurant,” Holt said. “We’ve always felt that we’re more of a meeting place and a community center area.”

He said that feeling comes from being in business for 25 years. Holt said he is close friends with many of his customers, some of which have been regulars since they opened in 1994.

“It’s good to be able to tell them, ‘hey, come here, sit outside. I’ll pour you another cup of coffee,’” Holt said. “That’s just an absolute delight.”

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