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The famed Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station has re-opened for business, having won a reprieve from what seemed like its imminent demise.

June 5 was the first day that the restaurant was open for garden seating, and owner Sheryl Cahill was at the patio’s entrance, welcoming customers back.

“Guests have been expressing how good it feels to be sitting down and eating in a restaurant,” Cahill said.

The outdoor dining tables were six feet apart, but there was a sense of near-normalcy on the patio. The sun was shining, and there was a breeze. One customer read a newspaper while others were sipping drinks or ordering meals. As a couple walked in the garden and threw their hands in the air with excitement, their laughter could be heard from behind their face masks. 

The reopening is a success that Cahill could not have envisioned just a few months ago. 

Station House Cafe owner Sheryl Cahill waits to greet customers at the entrance to the patio. Social distancing guidelines haven’t dampened enthusiasm for an opportunity to dine at the restaurant.

Like many businesses, Station House Cafe’s sales were hit hard when California’s shelter-in-place order was first issued in March. Cahill needed to figure out how to keep her business afloat while keeping her staff employed and covered on medical insurance. Through crowd sourcing funds and a PPP loan, she was good for one month.

“We’ve been at about 30% our normal sales doing take-out and without the paycheck protection program we would have locked the doors forever,” Cahill said. 

And then there was another blow — a 300 percent rent hike, an amount Cahill could not afford. Negotiations with the landlords were unsuccessful, and the business was set for permanent closure until a public outcry caused the landlords to rethink their decision. Temporarily.  

“It feels great to be a real restaurant again.”

Sheryl Cahill

“Because community response to the news about our lease was strong, far and wide, the landlords came back with an offer that certainly couldn’t be refused — a very, very deeply discounted rent to stay through the summer,” Cahill said. 

Labor Day will be the restaurant’s final weekend at the current location. But while nothing is confirmed yet, Cahill said she’s had four pretty encouraging offers for relocation.

For now, she hopes that as many neighboring businesses reopen, visitors will once again flood the unincorporated west Marin town on Highway 1 and her sales will grow. Point Reyes Station’s population numbers just a few hundred people, but it is a gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore where many trails have just reopened, and visitors are returning to the area.

Back at the patio, there were echoes of muffled voices from the waitstaff taking orders while wearing face masks. Some customers kept their masks on during the meal, removing them only to take a bite or a drink, while others let masks hang around their necks or dangle from an ear. 

Cahill made the rounds, checking on her customers. 

“This is our third incarnation since the end of March with a whole new business plan and a whole new set of practices,” Cahill said, “It feels great to be a real restaurant again.”