Co-owner of The Elderberry House Jonathan Rosenson said that the decision to relax the eatery's dress code came from a multitude of reasons. Photo by Edward Smith

published on July 9, 2021 - 4:12 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

One of the Central Valley’s most elegant resort stops is joining a list of fine-dining restaurants relaxing its dress code.

Last week, The Business Journal did a story on the evolving dress standards at fine dining restaurants following an announcement from one of Manhattan’s most famous restaurants that it is no longer requiring jackets for men.

Now, The Elderberry House in Oakhurst is doing the same.

Co-owner of The Elderberry House Jonathan Rosenson said that the decision came from a multitude of reasons. Covid had forced the resort to turn to its patio, which had been neglected until the disease forced diners outdoors in the heat. But going out to dinner has changed from the time when the meal was the biggest event, said Rosenson.

“I can’t really expect people to show up in slacks, a button-down and a coat,” Rosenson said. “They’d be melting outside.”

The decision to use the patio was out of necessity, but for Rosenson, the patio had been going unused all these years. So the decision to change their dress code was one out of practicality.

The decision is also geared for the times. He said the decision comes out of a desire to not alienate diners.

When the Rosensons purchased then-Erna’s Elderberry House, it came with a legacy dress code they kept around until the pandemic, he said. Diners were expected to wear what Rosenson called “casual elegance.” Elegant might mean suit and tie and casual might mean slacks and a button-down, or even jeans.

But now, the expectation of fine dress has changed, and California is leading the way, Rosenson said.

A new wave of diners might see wearing a $300 designer t-shirt or designer jeans as dressing up. And while it may make some who dress in traditional formalwear uncomfortable, Rosenson said he’s not a fan of that mentality.

“If you wanted to get dressed up and really enjoy yourself, it’s about you, not what the other tables are doing,” Rosenson said.

Business has begun picking up for the five-star restaurant at the gateway to Yosemite National Park. People are wanting to go out into the national parks. And while they’re not getting their international tourists, Rosenson mostly sees tourism from within the state, though the number of domestic travelers from around the country is beginning to pick up.

Rosenson sees the shift in fine dining happening beyond The Elderberry House. He hears classic rock being played at expensive eateries rather than Frank Sinatra or classic jazz.

“We’ve taken off our ties, we’ve taken off our jackets,” he said. “Fine dining is not necessarily about how you look coming into eat. It’s how you feel and the experience that you want to have.”

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