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Outdoor dining can now reopen in L.A.—but TVs and separate-household parties aren’t allowed

The news comes after California’s stay-at-home order was lifted.

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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UPDATE (1/29): Los Angeles County has released its new dining rules, so restaurants can now reopen their patios at 50% capacity, and with tables spaced at least eight feet apart.

But the rules also come with some new interesting restrictions: Tables, which must be limited to no more than six people, can only contain diners from the same household; all restaurants will be required to post signage and verbally notify customers about the rule.

In addition, “televisions or other screens that broadcast programming must remain off until further notice.” In other words: No TVs, no Super Bowl watch parties.

Breweries and wineries can resume on-site service, as well, but alcohol must be purchased in the same transaction as “a bona fide meal” and not between the hours of 12:01am and 11:30am (this timing window technically only applies to breweries and wineries that don’t possess a restaurant permit, so boozy brunch is still allowed elsewhere). As defined by the county, a “bona fide meal” means a legit meal, not just a prepackaged or reheated sandwich or snack.

Pasadena and Long Beach, which run their own health departments and already reopened dining on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, have mostly similar rules; Pasadena only requires six-foot spacing, Long Beach encourages but doesn’t require same-household parties. Pasadena has indicated that it too will issue a similar anti-Super Bowl TV rule, but Long Beach hasn’t—yet.

Our original story from Jan 25 appears below.

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After California announced that it was lifting its regional stay-at-home order on Monday, Los Angeles County followed suit and said it would once again permit small outdoor gatherings, leisure travel, hair and nail salons, and, later this week, outdoor dining.

“Los Angeles County will essentially align with the state by the end of the week to allow for the reopening of permitted activities under the purple tier. This will include outdoor dining,” said supervisor Hilda Solis on Monday.

Here’s the deal: L.A. County is reverting back to the health officer order that was issued on November 25, which is mostly in line with the state’s most restrictive purple reopening tier but went into place after that month’s outdoor dining ban. That means, effective immediately, private gatherings are again allowed outdoors only with two other households, up to a total limit of 15 people. Museums, zoos and aquariums can open outdoors, hair and nail salons can open indoors at 25% capacity, hotels can welcome leisure travelers and malls can bump up their capacity to 25%.

On Friday, January 29, a new county order will be issued that allows restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining with occupancy limits and mask requirements. The curfew on non-essential businesses from 10pm to 5am will be withdrawn, as well.

All that said, L.A. County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer still stressed the need for Angelenos to wear face coverings, practice social distancing and avoid crowds (especially with the Super Bowl coming up). “This is not the time for people to think that we can get back to our normally businesses and our normal ways of interacting with each other,” she said.

In November, L.A. County Public Health announced that if L.A.’s five-day average reached 4,000 or more cases or if it saw more than 1,750 hospitalizations per day, outdoor dining would cease completely—and it did. Interestingly, as restaurants are now set to reopen, the county’s daily numbers are still considerably worse than those thresholds, but it’s moving forward with easing restrictions anyway.

L.A.’s dining ban went into effect weeks before the state’s order and courted plenty of controversy along the way. After a county court overturned L.A.’s dining ban (a decision that was moot due to the state’s superseding dining ban), an appeals court ruling allowed the county to keep that ban in place until at least early February, regardless of the state’s order. Then there’s Pasadena, which despite being located within L.A. County runs its own health department, and initially opted to keep outdoor dining open even when the rest of the county didn’t. Similarly, Pasadena has now decided to reopen outdoor dining immediately. Long Beach, which also runs its own health department, set a Tuesday reopening date.

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