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Salazar Frogtown patio
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman Per state and city guidance, expect more outdoor dining this summer.

Los Angeles restaurants can reopen dine-in service thanks to state approval

L.A. County restaurants may reopen as soon as this evening.

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After closely monitoring—and now meeting—key public health metrics set by the state of California, Los Angeles County restaurants can reopen dine-in service effective today. 

This morning Governor Gavin Newsom and the state of California approved L.A. County to move further into the state’s second stage of reopening, meaning restaurants—as well as bars that serve food—can seat diners, provided they follow Gov. Newsom’s detailed restaurant guidance and, if they are located within the City of L.A., Mayor Eric Garcetti’s set of best practices. The approval also lets L.A. reopen salons and barber shops. According to an address today by county Department of Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, restaurants and these businesses can reopen as immediately as today, provided they follow the county's set of new, temporary regulations

The move trails a reopening of full-service restaurants and in-store shopping throughout most of California’s counties—including Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange County—which all met health and safety benchmarks in order the gain the state’s approval to reopen with modifications.

Restaurants—which had been required to cease dine-in service in L.A. since March 17—are in no way forced to reopen, but now have the option. Should dining establishments, or bars that serve food, choose to extend beyond takeout and delivery, they’ll need to enforce a number of temporary new rules for the safety of both employees and guests, including ensuring six feet of distance between tables; limiting party sizes to 10 guests per table; providing and using face masks; encouraging outdoor seating; discontinuing the pre-setting of tables; and throwing away paper menus after every use.

The county’s approval arrives during a somber week, when the United States reported more than 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths, total—the highest recorded death toll from the virus in the world—with more than 2,200 of those deaths occurring in L.A. County. Still, L.A. County met California’s key benchmarks for moving further into the state’s reopening plan, including demonstrating "stable/decreasing number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 by a seven-day average of daily percent change in the total number of hospitalized confirmed COVID-19 cases of <+5% or no more than 20 total” cases hospitalized in a two-week period. Per the approval documents, Los Angeles County reported an average change of negative-one percent in hospitalized cases over a seven-day period.

Also earlier this week, Northern California’s Lassen County—one of the state’s first variance-approved counties—sought to withdraw its approval, and have since modified it, due to new cases of coronavirus spurred by the reopening of dine-in and retail services. 

As to L.A.’s own reopening, county and city officials had offered both vague timelines and specific timelines—such as a goal of July 4—and even given contradictory estimations for the reopening, sometimes within one week: On May 13, county Department of Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer stated that L.A. County would not seek the state’s early-reopening variance, but on May 18 shared that officials might apply simply to have the option. On May 27, L.A. County applied for the state variance in a move that would allow area restaurants the option to reopen earlier than an eventual statewide push, and today, May 29, Gov. Newsom’s office granted the county’s approval.

“You know, our testing, our positivity rate is down,” Dr. Ferrer said on May 27. "We increased our capacity to do contact tracing, we have shored up—and this is again with the help of the EMS and the Department of Health Services—the PPE supply. The hospital capacity remains very strong… We’ve been on a recovery journey and I think that July 4 date is a date that really says, ‘We will be continuing to reopen between now and July 4 in a phased-in approach.’ We’ve always talked about a phased-in approach.”

This story has been updated with mention of Dr. Ferrer's May 29 address and its confirmation of an immediate reopening.

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