Newsom lays out rules for restaurants
From wire reports
Californians dying to sit and order a meal in their favorite restaurant got a glimmer of hope Tuesday, as Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out the steps eateries must take to begin welcoming back dine-in customers, the latest move in his gradual push to reopen the state.
Almost two months after coronavirus lockdowns forced California restaurants to close their dining rooms and limit service to takeout only, Newsom painted a detailed picture of what opening day will look like when those restrictions are lifted. The governor’s new guidelines include customers wearing masks when they aren’t eating, patrons getting screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the door, expanded outdoor seating and customers waiting in their cars for a table.
But it’s not clear when Southern Californians will be able to go back to feasting. As of Tuesday afternoon, only Butte and El Dorado counties had been
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Wil Dee, center, owner of Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar in Orange, along with Greg Bayer, left, bar manager, and Craig Brady, executive chef, watch as California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses coronavirus guidelines for dine-in restaurants Tuesday.
MARK RIGHTMIRE — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Lazy Dog General Manager Patrick Weyland posts signs around the Downey restaurant Tuesday in preparation for an eventual reopening. Patrons are warned not to enter if they have a fever, cough or cold or flu symptoms.
MINDY SCHAUER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
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granted permission to ease up more on their shelter-inplace rules, a strict process that requires counties to prove their COVID-19 cases have flattened and their hospital and testing capacity are on track, among other metrics.
Newsom also announced strip malls and outlet malls can reopen for curbside pickup throughout most of the state, as long as they follow physical distancing and other guidelines. Car washing and pet grooming businesses can open their doors too, as can nonessential offices with employees who cannot telework.
Newsom on Tuesday emphasized that stricter county shelter-in-place rules take precedence over his order.
“The statewide order affords the opportunity for local governments to conform with those guidelines, but one can choose — a region like the Bay Area and its six counties — can choose to be a little bit more prescriptive and restrictive,” he said.
His office has been in touch with 27 counties about rolling back shelter-in-place rules more quickly, Newsom said, and has had “deep” discussions with four.
Counties that meet his guidelines will be allowed to reopen dine-in restaurants, but not bars, pubs, breweries or wineries that don’t serve food. Once restaurants reopen, they can serve alcohol only if it’s ordered with a meal.
Restaurants intending to reopen must write a plan to prevent the spread of COVID- 19 and train employees in its implementation, follow intensive protocols for cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic areas, and make sure all customers and employees can stay 6 feet away from one another, among other rules.
Mike Bartusick, owner of The Park Bench Café in Huntington Beach, said he already moved to disinfect menus and outfit workers with masks when dining out was still allowed. He figured ketchup and sugar would no longer remain on tables and with only outdoor seating he’s confident he can get ready to open but needs to know when.
“Everything’s doable. I just want to get a date,” he said, adding a little more than half his usual crew is working to handle takeout orders. “Most restaurants are going to need at least a week to gain their staff back.”
But the guidelines also raise new questions. It’s still unclear exactly how the Southern California counties where Bartusick operates will interpret these rules. Newsom didn’t specify how full a restaurant dining room can be when it reopens, but local counties might. And accommodating the 6-foot rule could be tricky, especially in restaurants, where the tables are bolted to the floor..
“What I see is operating a little bit like a nightclub with a bouncer at the door to help us regulate who is sitting where and how many people are coming and going,” said Clay Walker, president of fast-casual gourmet burger joint chain Gott’s Roadside in the Bay Area. “They’re doing that at supermarkets.”
Restaurants have been walloped by the stay-athome order in California, which has allowed takeout orders but not in-person dining because of concerns about the virus’s spread. Restaurant owners have been forced to lay off staff as takeout is often a fraction of their business, and they have been rallying to reopen their doors.
In his daily briefing, Newsom said the guidance aims to provide flexibility to the broad range of restaurants that operate throughout the state while ensuring customers and workers feel safe.
California has more than 90,000 restaurants that generate $7 billion in sales tax each year, more than any other industry, according to the California Restaurant Association.
The group welcomed the focus on safety measures and said its members are eager to reopen so they can stay in business. The association had previously drafted its own list of recommendations, including limiting tables to no more than 10 people and an end to salad bars, buffets and shared bread baskets.
“Other states have established arbitrary rules around restaurant capacity, but what’s important are safety measures and physical distancing,” Jot Condie, the association’s president, said in a statement.
Newsom on Tuesday acknowledged the pressure his shelter-in-place order put on the restaurant industry, which has been rocked by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“You’re already running on low margins to begin with. I’m not naive about any of this,” Newsom said. “I’m deeply concerned.” The Bay Area News Group and The Associated Press contributed to this report.