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How to negotiate a lockdown 

Where to meet for safe, socially distanced time with friends when everything is closed

After the announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom that San Luis Obispo County was officially part of the newly created and highly fictional "Southern California region" as far as the new COVID-19 state of emergency went, I ventured forth for one last dinner al fresco before the next day's shutdown. A friend and I headed for the Creamery Marketplace in downtown SLO where seven restaurants share a large courtyard. It was a chilly night, so we thought we'd eat at a Peruvian place, Mistura, where some spicy dishes might warm us up.

The scene was one of high conviviality—imaginatively masked diners, some with families, others in parties of two, occupied almost every well-spaced and highly sanitized table. Fortified with two Pisco sours and stuffed with a sea bass and quinoa salad plate, we resisted finishing with the ice cream towers the Nite Creamery was selling at a fast clip. Instead we wandered around and discovered the Joliene Bakery, Active Coffee Co., and a cider bar, all of which I vowed to sample as soon as the lockdown order was lifted. I thought that after this gourmet outing, I could wait out the next three weeks.

But no. I soon became as stir crazy as I had been back in March and resolved to find a way to get out while not endangering myself and others. I live in a small apartment within a larger complex, and all our common spaces—computer room, meeting spaces, library, and hot tub—have been closed since March 2020. The nearby restaurants that had gone from takeout and delivery in April to outdoor dining in summer and early fall were once again closed in December. Where to meet friends for food and drink became the challenge. My search was on.

I remembered that a local SLO restaurant, the Nautical Bean, had two stone tables and benches out back and surely such hefty objects could not be stored away with the lightweight tables and chairs that used to sit out front. And I was right. So for the next three days, I planned meetings with friends that took place at those tables Although this could be considered "semi-legal," other people had the same idea, and the restaurants near these tables could easily have charged $5 for customers to sit there.

Next, while shopping for a French press to make coffee in the most elegant and tasteful way, I found another location (to remain a secret) that had four steel seats (also can't be moved) near another coffee shop. Again, some other clever folks had spotted the seats and settled in for lunch and drinks.

Finally, as I drove home, I spotted people in front of a restaurant dining on their own beach chairs, which they had set up in a small circle so as to sit 6 feet apart. Aha and voila! Was this to be the next trend? That is to say, will there be moveable feasts all over the city as people get tired of being cooped up? These early innovators were moving in, or you might say, squatting, wherever they found a restaurant that appealed to them. As long as no one called the COVID-19 cops (luckily, we still don't seem to have these) or citizen vigilantes, the moveable feast idea seems doable.

So take your choice, fellow citizens, and follow one of my helpful hints. Or better yet, come up with still more ways to negotiate the lockdown. And please, send me your suggestions when you do. Δ

Judith Amber is looking for suggestions. Send them through the editor at

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