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With grace and some spillage, waiters race through midtown on 10th annual Bastille Day

Watch local servers compete in Bastille Day Waiters’ Race

Local servers compete for up to $500 in cash prizes during the 10th annual Bastille Day Waiters' Race in midtown Sacramento on Sunday, July 14, 2019.
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Local servers compete for up to $500 in cash prizes during the 10th annual Bastille Day Waiters' Race in midtown Sacramento on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

No running and no spilling.

Two simple rules in theory, but not in practice for the 50 waiters who participated in Sunday’s annual Bastille Day waiters’ race in midtown.

With Capitol Avenue and L, 18th and 19th streets blocked off, waiters took off from the front of Broderick Roadhouse on 18 and L, and then circled twice around the blocks. As they tried to out-power walk their competitors, they attempted to not spill any of the Perrier water that filled the glasses perched on their trays - all while dressed in pristine white shirts adorned with black bow ties.

Spectators packed the outdoor seating of restaurants bordering the race track, cheering the waiters on.

Organized by the Handle District, a midtown business improvement district, the annual celebration commemorates the French “Bastille Day” that is commonly seen as equivalent to the United States’ Fourth of July. It falls on the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.

The event is also sponsored by two French cultural organizations: the Alliance Française de Sacramento, a French language school in midtown, and the Sacramento French Film Festival, held every June in the Crest Theatre downtown.

Aziz Bellarbi-Salah, who won the waiters’ race two years ago and has participated in the race every year since the Handle District began organizing it, said that success requires “a lot of skill, a lot of luck and a lot of stamina.”

Though he is in good shape from playing soccer, he said, “there are few things that would translate to success in this race other than the skills gained from waiting tables.”

Bellarbi-Salah owns the Brasserie Capitale and the The Grand bar, and his family owns the Aioli Bodega Espanola restaurant.

Seann Rooney, a spokesman for the Handle District, said that when it first began holding Bastille Day, around 50 people came to watch the race. Now, he said, there are more than 2,000 spectators.

Nataley Stark, 30, said this was her first time at the waiters’ race. Her husband, a waiter at the Yardhouse restaurant, competed in the race. She said her hometown of Visalia held waiters’ races, but they weren’t nearly as big.

The winners, Elijahn Ainsley from Paesano’s restaurant and Lisa Blue from Brasserie Capitale, each won $500.

Elaine Chen, from the University of Chicago, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in the Bay Area and later in Beijing, China.
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