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    Guerneville Recovery

    By Liam P. Mayclem–

    For decades, Guerneville, Sonoma—the little blink and you’ll miss it town nestled among the redwoods, ninety minutes north of San Francisco—has been an LGBTQi summer holiday haven and year-round weekend getaway. Lazy days on the sun-kissed River, poolside fun at the RRR, Boon dinners with friends, camping under the stars, Sundance parties; these are my fondest memories of Guerneville. But more recently floods, a pandemic, and wildfires are top of mind.

    Crista Luedtke is an out, proud hotelier & restauranteur who, for more than a decade, has poured her heart and soul into the community she loves and calls home, Guerneville. She has four businesses in town: Boon Hotel, Boon Eat+Drink, Brot—a Bavarian inspired brew pub & restaurant—and a bar El Barrio. These recent months have been really tough, says the ever-optimistic entrepreneur.

    “Unfortunately, I have had to scale back considerably,” Luedtke told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “All of my services at my restaurant Boon Eat+Drink, where I used to do six dinners and five lunches, I’m now doing five dinners and three lunches. My bar El Barrio is currently closed. It just doesn’t make sense to only have two tables out back and do takeout cocktails. I’ve taken my newest baby Brot down to four dinner services. It’s just really tricky. I’m trying to be smart. I’m trying to make sure I keep my staff employed and making money as well. But this year post floods, then COVID, then the threat of fires—it has been the hardest and most challenging time ever.”

    Liam Mayclem: This had to be particularly tough personally, as I know your co-workers are like family.

    Crista Luedtke: That’s the stressful part, just trying to figure out as the season slows down, I have to make cutbacks and how do I do that? And how do I do it fairly? And so, these are difficult decisions for any small business owner, but particularly for me in that my team, these guys are my family and many have been with me for several years. I can’t even explain how devastating it is financially now. I did receive some government assistance with PPP funding as well as some economic disaster loan, so that will hopefully get me over the hump. But where is over the hump? That’s the big question.

    Liam Mayclem: Resilience! Floods, a pandemic, and then wildfires would be enough to bring most people and most communities to their knees, but not Guerneville, this resilient little town.

    Crista Luedtke: Bay Area folks are coming back to support us, which feels great at a time like this. I mean, it was devastating being evacuated for eight days and at the final big push of our season. We only have about five weeks left of the big summer push. To come to a dead stop with the fires and then to worry about this little hamlet of a town possibly being no more was just terrifying, to say the least. But today there are blue skies, it’s a nice, beautiful, warm day. People—locals and visitors—are happy they’re out and about and moving around. I feel grateful. The town is grateful.

    Liam Mayclem: Guerneville escaped the ravages of the LNU complex fire: the thirty-nine fire crews and more than fifteen hundred personnel made sure of that. The community is beyond grateful to the first responders, to CAL FIRE, and to you and fellow chefs who expressed their gratitude with warm, hearty meals for those on the front lines.

    Crista Luedtke: What we do is feed people, and we can say thank you through a meal. It’s also a nice distraction from all the chaos to be able to just dive in, and for a moment in time, forget about all the other stuff and just cook and know that you’re touching people and thanking them through food. Plus, there’s the camaraderie with other chefs. We’re in the same boat, and just to be together, it feels really good. And, in fact, gives you that hug that we’re all missing without being able to be close with one another right now and that fills me up, lifts your spirit, and allows you to carry on and keep doing what you do.

    Liam Mayclem: Guerneville, the mighty resilient hamlet among the redwoods, which 4500 plus people call home, is open for business again. COVID-19 is still in the driving seat, but the fires are in the rear-view mirror.

    Crista Luedtke: Stay at the properties here. Eat at the restaurants, order takeout and buy gift certificates, and do whatever you can to really support these small businesses because we don’t want them to go away. We need this little town, this little community. That’s what we need now more than ever, your support.

    Liam Mayclem: Come wine, dine, play, and stay along the Russian River—it’s a great getaway with the perfect union of natural beauty and small-town charm. See you soon, Guerneville.

    Note: The interview was conducted over Labor Day weekend, and as we filed the story, tbe LNU complex fire was 91% contained.

    For More Information

    Boon Eat + Drink

    Boon Hotel


    Big Bottom Market

    Farmhouse Inn

    Russian River Rentals

    Photos courtesy of Liam Mayclem

    Emmy Award-winning radio and television personality Liam Mayclem is regularly featured on KPIX as well as KCBS, where he is the popular Foodie Chap. Born in London, Mayclem is now at home in the Bay Area, where he lives with his husband, photographer Rick Camargo. For more information:

    Published on September 10, 2020