The west part of the county was recently shocked when some of the most beloved, venerable eateries were suddenly closed by the Sonoma County Health Department.
“What? I can’t get lunch?” asked one resident at the Casino Bar & Grill in Bodega. The woman on a ladder scrubbing the antlers on the deer trophies answered, “Sorry, not today. We’re closed for cleaning.”
It was more widespread than that. The Jenner Sea Store and Gas Station was closed, the Valley Ford Market was closed, Lucas Wharf Restaurant was closed, Howard’s Station in Occidental was closed.
It was time for deep cleaning. Lucas Wharf was closed almost two weeks over the holidays, putting between 40 and 50 employees on unpaid vacations. Howard’s Station with 12 employees was closed three days. Valley Ford Market and Jenner Sea Store were able to reopen in a day, and the Casino was closed for about nine days. Its part-time work crew of 10 volunteered their labor to help scrub and reopen the unofficial town hall of Bodega because they wanted to help owner Evelyn Casini, who is in her nineties. She is a valued institution in the small town.
“He was just doing his job,” said Casini, who has owned the Casino for 70 years, of the inspector who locked her down. “What is, is. We are patching holes and scrubbing.”
A freshly chewed rodent hole led to the deep cleaning frenzy and hole filling. A live roach panicked the Lucas Wharf inspector. Each place that was closed had evidence of a live critter having moved in, according to the Public Relations spokesman at the Environmental Health Dept., Rohish Lal.
“We take our jobs seriously,” said Lal. “Our primary goal is to educate people.”
“I think some of the inspectors that have retired out had become too lenient,” said one worker at the Casino. “It’s a good idea to close for a deep cleaning maybe a day each year.”
Karen Parker, owner of Lucas Wharf, which was most dramatically impacted as it had the most employees and was closed the longest, did not return phone calls.
Lal said that last year 42 Sonoma County businesses had been closed in the same way and another 29 had been issued cautionary notices. The latter are issued when rodent or insect residue is found that is not fresh. If anything fresh is found, the place is closed until compliance is met.
The closures were immediate and abrupt. The owners were given no warning. Casini was not at home or at the business and was as startled as everyone else to find her business shut down.
Her reopening brought in a celebratory crowd.
No one was willing to say how much loss the businesses suffered financially. But everyone appeared to be relieved that at this point they can return to their favorite places, knowing everything is sparkling clean, and other than the people, no creatures are stirring, not even a mouse.