Indoor Dining Returns to LA Next Week

The state met its goal of administering two million vaccination doses.

For the latest information regarding California and LA County's COVID restrictions and plans for reopening, please visit covid19.ca.gov.

California met its target of administering two million vaccine doses to the most underserved communities throughout the state on Friday, March 12, allowing LA and 12 other California counties to move into the less-restrictive red tier that permits indoor dining at 25% capacity, next week. Once advanced into the red tier, reopenings will go into effect within 48 hours.

The latest developments are a direct result of the county’s concerted efforts to increase vaccinations, especially within underprivileged communities. Mobile vaccination sites and additional appointments for certain eligible groups at the county’s massive vaccination sites have assisted in meeting this goal, plus the fact that LA County received its largest vaccine shipment to date this week, with 313,000 doses, including 62% that were expected to go towards first doses, and 53,700 doses of the recently authorized, single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. On Monday, March 15, residents with certain health conditions and disabilities who are between the ages of 16 to 64 will be newly eligible to receive the vaccine.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health, commended Angelenos for doing their part to slow the spread, saying, “This milestone is the result of businesses and individuals working together and doing their part to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. It will be up to everyone, businesses and residents, to continue driving down transmission and to follow safety directives closely to keep everyone as safe as possible by preventing increases in cases. When even relatively small numbers of businesses and individuals fail to adhere to the safety precautions, many others experience tragic consequences."

Permitted activities under the red tier include: 

  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can open indoors at 25% capacity.
  • Gyms, fitness centers, yoga, and dance studios can open indoors at 10% capacity with masks required for indoor activities.
  • Movie theatres can open indoors at 25% capacity with reserved seating. Each group must be seated at least six feet apart in all directions from any other groups.
  • Retail and personal care services like nail and hair salons can increase capacity to 50% with masks required at all times and for all services.
  • Indoor shopping malls can increase capacity to 50% as long as common areas remain closed.

For restaurants, the requirements for reopening are a bit more complicated: restaurants can open indoors at 25% maximum capacity, but must have eight feet of distance in between tables; can only seat one household per table with a limit of six people; and must have a well-working and recently evaluated HVAC system with ventilation increased to the maximum extent possible. Food courts can also open at 25% capacity as long as they adhere to the above guidance. In terms of outdoor dining, up to six people from three different households can be seated at the same table, so that still remains the best option for dining out with friends you don’t live with. 

As for restaurant staff, the department recommends that employees who interact with customers indoors are provided with additional mask protection that exceeds the current requirements of a face shield over a face mask. This might include fit-tested N95 masks, KN95 masks, or double masks and a face shield. It’s also recommended that such staff are informed about and offered the opportunity to be vaccinated.

These developments represent an important turning point for LA County, which just a couple of months ago had some of the highest COVID numbers in the country. The new health order will allow LA residents to enjoy eating indoors at restaurants for the first time in over eight months, though stay tuned for how quickly restaurants are able to pull off this latest pivot. Still, the metered reopening stands to offer our city's essential restaurants (which is to say, all of them), as well as their workers, some much needed relief. 

See the health department’s full news release for more information on permitted activities and associated regulations under the red tier.

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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.