Hungry diners flock to downtown

County’s shelter-in-place order loosens, allows outdoor dining

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GLAD TO BE BACK Sam Bozzo (from left), Danny Mitchell and Mark Sanchez wait for their orders at The Milias Restaurant on June 5, the first day restaurants are once again allowed to offer outdoor dining. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Staff at The Milias Restaurant in downtown Gilroy didn’t know what to expect on June 5.

The day marked the return of outdoor dining in Santa Clara County, part of a slow reopening of the county under the shelter-in-place order.

The Milias had set up about five or so tables outside its doors on Sixth Street near the corner of Monterey Street. On the morning of June 5, a sign posted outside notified customers that all seats had been reserved.

Just before noon, all of those seats were filled with happy diners, chatting about their day, as a line of people standing apart from each other spilled out the front door, waiting for their to-go orders.

Ann Zyburra, who owns the Milias Restaurant with Adam Sanchez, was constantly walking from the front of house to the kitchen, helping her staff along the way.

NON-STOP It’s all-hands-on-deck inside The Milias Restaurant’s kitchen. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

She said service was slow as the crew worked its way back into a rhythm that was lost when the restaurant was forced to close after the shelter-in-place order went into effect on March 17. The crew is also working through new safety protocols, such as social distancing and wearing masks.

The Milias has been open for takeout orders since the shelter-in-place began, but Zyburra said going from a few orders a day over the past three months to being slammed with orders in one day has been challenging, to say the least.

“It’s been absolute hell,” she said.

John Borofka of Gilroy was standing near the Milias’ bar, waiting for his pepper steak sandwich order, as the restaurant was only letting in one person at a time to pick up their meals.

“This is great to see everyone supporting the Milias,” he said. “I wasn’t a big takeout guy before, but now I am.”

The Milias wasn’t alone. Most downtown restaurants enjoyed a similar turnout, forming a scene that was reminiscent of the days just four months ago.

Santa Clara County’s June 5 order allows for outdoor dining at restaurants and in-store shopping at retail locations, subject to limitations and social distancing guidelines. No-contact in-home services such as house cleaning, and other low-contact service businesses such as shoe repair can reopen.

John Borofka shows his to-go order at The Milias Restaurant. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

All children can now take part in childcare, summer camps, summer school, or other educational and recreational programs, so long as groups are limited to 12 or fewer. 

Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 are allowed for religious services and cultural ceremonies.

Any outdoor recreational activities that do not involve physical contact and adhere to social distancing protocols, such as swimming pools, can resume. Car-based gatherings are also permitted, including drive-in theaters.