The Carpe Diem wine bar was among the Napa buildings designated as “uninhabitable.” (Photos: Bill Fink)
In downtown Napa, a dozen reporters lined up in front of the same damaged building, giving alarming reports to the cameras about the most severe earthquake to hit California in 25 years. Behind them, the Carpe Diem Wine Bar looked as though it had been hit by a missile, with bricks blasted all over the sidewalk. Above it, the third story of the building has a gaping hole exposing dangling rafters.
Yet only 100 feet away, Downtown Joe’s Brewery & Restaurant hardly has a scratch. It’s open for business, crowded with patrons, and has attracted not a single camera. “We don’t let anything like a lil’ old earthquake stop us,” one employee told Yahoo Travel. This seems to be the main feeling in Napa, for residents and visitors alike, once you get away from the news vans.
Just 100 feet away from the wreckage at the Carpe Diem Wine Bar, it was business as usual at Downtown Joe’s Brewery & Restaurant.
Napa has certainly suffered severe damage from the quake, with more than up to 100 buildings having been “red-tagged” as uninhabitable, hundreds of homes still without power, and dozens of people being treated at local hospitals. Shops and wineries reported mass destruction of bottles and casks. And one street was still dealing with a massive oil slick — olive oil — oozing across the sidewalk from hundreds of shattered bottles inside a shop.
The Hall of Justice sustained significant damage.
Gary Dent of Napa Valley Hotel & Suites, which is just across the street from the heavily damaged Napa County Hall of Justice, said his guests took the prior evening’s temblor in stride. “Some of them were just rolling in from the Blues and Brews event. They thought it was part of the party,” Dent said.
As for damage to the hotel, Dent added, “Things fell off the shelves, and we had a mini tsunami in the swimming pool,” but after refilling the pool and apologizing to guests that the lack of power in the morning meant no free, hot coffee, it was just another regular day.
Outside the hotel, one elderly Norwegian tourist was singularly unimpressed with the whole event. “Ya, well, there was some shaking, and I woke up,” he said with an exaggerated shrug, “but is no big deal.” At the other end of downtown at the Napa River Inn, Jean McGarry, in town from Baltimore, was a little more moved. “It felt like being inside a cocktail shaker,” McGarry said of the prior night’s disturbance. But her conference was continuing as scheduled with 100% of the Johns Hopkins University alumni group still going to wineries, restaurants, and galleries as planned.
The smashing of hundreds of olive-oil bottles left an oil slick on the street.
Monty Sander, spokesperson for the Visit Napa Valley tourist board, issued the following statement: “Most businesses are open as usual, but we suggest calling first to confirm your plans.”
“The way you hear it on the news, you’d think the whole town had been swallowed up,” said Ray Bragar, who is visiting from New York. “But the place looks fine to me. My dinner reservations are still good.”
At the upscale Morimoto Napa restaurant, the interior looked as pristine as it did on opening day — but not without a lot of hard work. “We came in this morning at 4, started cleaning at about 5 a.m., and 12 hours later, we’re ready to open,” said manager Filippo Bevilacqua. The staff had even put glass vases back on top of a narrow wooden shelf. “Hey, we’re gamblers. It’s the Japanese way.”
A collapsed roof in Napa
Outside of downtown Napa, the Wine Train temporarily suspended operations while they inspected the rails and bridges for damage, but they expected to reopen within 24 hours.
About 30 miles north in Calistoga, the rolling quake was still strong enough to shock visitors. Ariel Espiritu Santo had planned a quiet weekend camping in a yurt with her husband and had even bought a bottle of Earthquake brand Zinfandel as a joke. But she was rudely awakened at 3:20 a.m, “And thought I was in a boat, the ground was rolling around so much. At least I was happy we didn’t have to worry about a building collapsing on us. Then my husband said we might be hit by a falling tree.” But there was a bright side: “We didn’t have to worry about losing power, because the yurt didn’t have electricity.”
Even those who were harder hit by the earthquake were reflective and thankful that they only suffered property damage. As one local said after he had filled up a few trashcans, “Things are just things; you can’t get too attached.”
Many trashcans were packed to the brim with items that had been broken in the quake.