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Ventura County is reopening dine-in restaurant service

L.A.’s next-door neighbor will once again welcome dine-in costumers—with modifications.

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On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that 53 of California’s 58 counties now qualify to reopen more businesses under early phase-two guidance, and a few of the state’s regions are already springing into action. While L.A.’s own dine-in service remains paused, its neighbor to the northwest is now able to seat guests across Ventura.

Ventura County officials moved swiftly, proposing the expedited-reopening variance with its own board of supervisors the night of Gov. Newsom’s announcement, and approving the movement on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, it was formally approved by the state, making Ventura the first and largest county in SoCal to do so. Dine-in and in-store shopping will be permitted starting this Thursday, May 21—though restaurants will have to register with the county first.

“The preparations to protect public health combined with the confidence we have in our business owners and residents puts us in a great position to move forward on an accelerated path,” Ventura County CEO Mike Powers relayed in a public statement. “Covid-19 has had devasting [sic] impacts on both community health and our economy. We want businesses to be able to reopen and we believe they can and will do so safely.”

Of course, reopening safely is key to restaurants’ relaunch, and in order to do so the experience probably won’t feel a complete return to normalcy, at least at first. Last week Gov. Newsom released a detailed and lengthy set of statewide guidelines for restaurants to follow as dine-in service reemerges, including a continued closure of bar areas; mandatory face masks for any staff who come within six feet of customers; increased sanitizer stations; the prohibition of tableside dish preparation; and the discontinuation of any sort of self-service stations for water, utensils, straws, condiments or napkins, among other guidances.

In order to gain approval from the state, Ventura County provided that its key metrics were within the state’s requirements: that its rate of positive coronavirus patients hospitalized totaled fewer than five percent in the last week; that the county’s rates have fallen at least 3.4 percent in the past week; and that its positive test results for the last two weeks are below eight percent (an official statement says that, at least this week, the number is hovering at 3.5 percent).

In addition to dine-in service, Ventura County’s phase-two plans include the return of in-store shopping—as opposed to retail delivery and curbside pickup only—as well as a reopening of schools in the fall, with modifications. A number of central and northern counties have already applied for early phase-two approval, including Humboldt County and Nevada County; a running list can be found here.

L.A. County officials recently revealed a timeline for its own reopening, setting a goal of July 4 for a full return to retail and restaurant operations. Gov. Newsom has shared that eventually California will push for a statewide reopening, which would presumably entail all counties relaunching retail and recreational activities, including dine-in seating at restaurants, though it is unclear when that statewide push will occur, nor if July 4 would precede or follow Gov. Newsom’s initiative.

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