By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Omicron surge is ending, but local restaurants are forced to pivot yet again to stay in business.

Just six months after opening his second restaurant — Oliver’s Brewhouse and Grill in Lincoln — owner Matthew Oliver was scrambling when the governor issued a mandatory mask mandate and COVID-19 hospitilizations soared.

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“So you add the surge, the fear, complacency, people were just tired of it all, tired of the drama. It just killed it,” Oliver said. “Toughest December and January I have ever experienced in the business.”

He says filling the 15,000-square-foot space has forced him to get creative.

“At Oliver’s in Lincoln, we’ve brought on Trivion Tuesdays, line dancing Wednesdays, karoke Thursdays, concerts, comedians Fridays and Saturdays we have improv classes, sip and paint nights,” Oliver said.

And now they are offering a set tasting menu at $59/person..it’s affordable for families and helps with supply chain issues.

“We’re able to focus and control our ordering, work with other restaurants, and other other location so we can bring that price down,” Oliver said.

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Sacramento restaunteur Patrick Mulvaney has made a business out of pivoting during the pandemic. When dine-in dropped, he started focusing on catering and feeding hundreds of low-income families and seniors every week.

“The goal was to make sure we kept as many of our crew working as possible that we kept our farmers going, that we’re supporting them,” Mulvaney said.

Tuesday, his restaurant received a Poppy Award from Visit Sacramento in honor of their recovery work.

“While this is a recognition of our work, the truth is, across Sacramento, 40 restaurants stayed in business because of Family Meal Sacramento,” Mulvaney said.

It’s one step at a time for Oliver who has cooked up this plan to bring more people in the door. He knows all too well what’s at stake. He took over the lease after another business went belly up due to the pandemic.

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“If we can’t get people to start coming out again, you’re going to see restaurants start closing like you saw in the middle of the pandemic,” he said.