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LA County Restaurants Can Reopen Outdoor Dining Tomorrow. But Are Restaurants Prepared?




People eat take-out food outdoors at a
People eat take-out food outdoors at a "public parklet" due to Covid-19 restrictions on restaurant outdoor dining in Manhattan Beach, California, December 12, 2020.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

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If you're wondering why Los Angeles restaurants are being allowed to reopen for outdoor dining as Southern California's ICU capacity remains near zero and air quality regulators lift limits on the number of bodies crematoriums can burn, you are not alone. Some restaurateurs are just as confused.

"I have to say we were all pretty shocked and a little bit overwhelmed at how sudden that decision came," Susan Feniger, co-owner and co-chef of the Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles and Socalo in Santa Monica, told our newsroom's local culture and news show Take Two, which airs on 89.3 KPCC. "We all sort of thought maybe March, maybe April with the vaccine."

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted California's regional stay-at-home orders, returning control over pandemic restrictions to individual counties, which can loosen, tighten or maintain current regulations. Most counties, including Los Angeles, have returned to the strictest tier — purple — in the state's color-coded COVID-19 reopening plan.

L.A. County officials said they'll align with the state by allowing outdoor dining (and other types of businesses, such as nail salons) to re-open with limited capacity.

The upshot is that L.A. County restaurants will be allowed to resume outdoor dining this Friday, Jan. 29. (Public health officials had put the kibosh on outdoor dining in late November, despite resistance from local politicians and a lawsuit.) But there will be restrictions.

Many restaurants were surprised by the reopening timeline and may not be ready to resume outdoor dining this week.

Today on AirTalk, we’re hearing from restaurant owners and workers on how they’re feeling about the guidelines and whether they’re planning to reopen. Do you work in a restaurant that is reopening, or considering reopening outdoor dining? We want to hear from you! Comment below or give us a call at 866-893-5722.

With files from LAist

Guest:

Elina Shatkin, food editor at LAist; she tweets @elinashatkin