San Jose bars serve their last cocktail amid coronavirus shutdown
Michael North, co-owner of Britannia Arms Almaden, is temporarily closing his bar following an order from Santa Clara County. He said the move will cost him "tens of thousands of dollars," but it is the right thing to do. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    Like other San Jose watering holes, San Jose’s Britannia Arms in Almaden has temporarily closed its doors following the health mandate from Santa Clara County and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request.

    On Sunday, Newsom asked all state bars, nightclubs, wineries, and brewpubs to close in an increased effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants have also been asked to limit their customers to half-capacity to ensure social distancing.

    Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody last week issued a mandatory order prohibiting public or private gatherings of more than 100 people for at least three weeks. Gatherings of 35 to 100 people are also banned unless conditions are met to reduce the likelihood of coronavirus transmission.

    “Our aggressive measures are designed to slow the spread of disease and protect critical health care system capacity and other essential services,” Cody said. “We recognize these actions will have a significant impact on the lives of our citizens, but we believe they are necessary to protect the well-being of our community.”

    As of Monday, there were 138 confirmed cases in Santa Clara County.

    Michael North, co-owner of Britannia Arms, agrees with the state order to close his bar even though it will cost him “tens and tens of thousands of dollars.”

    “Public safety is more important than us making money,” North said. “As a company, we will weather this. Our main concern is making sure our customers are safe and our staff are taken care of.”

    North asked his San Jose customers to be patient and considerate of others during the closure — but be ready to come back and support the local night scene in the city when it’s over.

    “If you’re loyal to a restaurant or bar, when this is over, make sure you’re the first in line to go back there and support them,” North said. “Hang tight and we’ll all be back to normal as soon as we can. Life is very short, and this is one of those things.”

    John Torrey, who runs Tuesday night trivia at Britannia Arms, said the bar is making the right decision. He said the bar’s management has set the staff up well” by providing information on filing for unemployment benefits and says they know there will be a job waiting for them when it reopens. Torrey will hold online trivia games during the shutdown.

    “We can all just hit pause for a while and come back when it’s safer,” Torrey said. “We can’t all say, ‘It’s only about me, I’m not going to get sick.’ We have to worry about all the other people who might.”

    In the heart of the city, downtown businesses are reeling from the decision to close bars and clubs — which make up a large part of the downtown scene.

    Dan Phan, owner of Paper Plane, Original Gravity Public House, Miniboss, and Super Good Kitchen, closing his businesses was a necessary but difficult decision. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    Dan Phan, owner of Original Gravity Public House, Paper Plane, Miniboss, and Super Good Kitchen, in downtown San Jose, made the decision to close his businesses a few hours before Newsom’s announcement because of the county mandate and public sentiment.

    Phan, who employs 100 people across his four businesses, said it wasn’t an easy decision. He hopes his employees will be able to collect unemployment benefits.

    “Things were really slow, and it made sense with trying to flatten the coronavirus curve,” Phan said. “We’re doing our best in an uncertain future.”

    Phan is waiting to see what his options are as he doesn’t know if his landlords will pause on charging rent while his businesses are closed, or how much aid he might receive from the federal government’s disaster loan program. Mayor Sam Liccardo and his council colleagues last week adopted a ban on evictions of renters and businesses because of a lack of income due to the virus.

    Phan said he’s encouraged by the support he’s received on social media.

    “People are saying we did the right thing closing and they’ll be there to support us when we reopen,” Phan said.

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

    Comment Policy (updated 11/1/2021): We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by administrators.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.