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The Biggest LA Restaurant Stories of 2020

Coronavirus impacted every single top story in 2020, from regional dining hotspots, to government mandated closures, and a corporate chain refusing to pay rent

Signage of Cheesecake Factory in white letters over a brass overhang at The Grove in Los Angeles.
The Cheesecake Factory, The Grove
The Grove

Every year, Eater LA reflects on dining in Southern California by looking at the stories that gathered the most attention throughout the year. But because 2020 feels like a decade wrapped into 12 months, the look back is a stunning glimpse into everything that transpired throughout this exhausting year.

What can we say? Everything was and still is related to COVID-19. As of this writing, Los Angeles remains in its second shelter-at-home order, in-house dining is still restricted, while struggling restaurants and food service workers are hanging on by a thread. These top articles are time capsules that describe how and when 2020 transpired, what Los Angeles diners were searching for, along with the role of state, city, and county officials in dining out. So here: the 12 most read standalone restaurant stories of 2020 on Eater LA.

12. 19 Must-Try Dining Destinations in Palm Springs

If there was any indication that people needed to escape from Los Angeles, all signs point towards to Palm Springs in the early fall. A mid-October cooling surge in the Coachella Valley helped land this dining map as the twelfth most popular story of the year.

Covid cases are surging in Riverside County,CA

11. As COVID-19 Surges, LA County Shuts Down All Outdoor Restaurant Dining

It’s been slightly under one month since LA County’s health department shut down outdoor dining as the Southern California region began its current surge of coronavirus cases. The November 22 public health order was announced two days after state officials issued a mandatory stay-at-home order with a 10 p.m. curfew.

California Imposes New Lockdown Orders As COVID-19 Cases Surge Across The Nation Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

10. A Running List of Los Angeles Restaurants That Have Fully Reopened

In early June, Los Angeles and adjacent counties reopened dining rooms after the state mandated their closure in March. It was a swift and bumpy rollout and right around the same time as police brutality protests, subsequent and cumbersome curfews, while operating with new guidelines (see #9).

Walter Soto from El Ruso making tacos from his trailer.
El Ruso
Farley Elliott

9. Here Are California’s Guidelines for Reopening Restaurant Dining Rooms

In May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined “guidelines for reopening in-room dining.” The state outlined how to deal with new mandated rules like physical distancing, the use of face masks, sanitary procedures, and more. This was a welcome moment for restaurants that were closed for three months, but bars, nightclubs, distilleries, and other alcohol manufacturers that did not also serve food were required to remain closed. On that same day, Los Angeles County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer noted the county’s stay-at-home order would “with all certainty” be extended through July.

Daily Life In Los Angeles Amid Coronavirus Outbreak Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

8. Gov. Newsom to Order Immediate Closure of LA Restaurant Dining Rooms for Next Three Weeks

A few days before July 4, Gov. Newsom ordered a new round of lockdowns for Los Angeles County. The action came a little over a month after the state allowed LA County dining rooms to reopen. This time, outdoor dining was literally on the table, while bars were required to close entirely.

7. A Running List of LA Restaurants That Have Closed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As one of the saddest parts of 2020, Eater LA’s list of permanent restaurant closures became the longest to date. LA restaurants faced a rollercoaster of legal and financial hurdles, including dining room openings (and prompt re-closures), a lacking federal aid response, and a wary dining public.

Broken Spanish restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles
Broken Spanish

6. LA County Officials Urge Residents to Skip Grocery Shopping If Possible

During a press conference on March 6, LA County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer urged residents to stay home and forego any shopping trips or any needs to leave the house in an effort to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus.

5. California Can Now Sell Cocktails To-Go, but Only With Food

On March 20, California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) undertook some serious measures during the early stages of the pandemic. ABC eased its rules around alcohol delivery, making it far easier for restaurants to sell beer, wine, and pre-mixed drinks/cocktails for pick-up or delivery throughout the state.

4. 19 Exciting New Restaurants to Try in LA Right Now

As restaurants reopened in May, the timing felt right for Eater LA’s staff to update the monthly heatmap and highlight places that opened in 2020.

A finished pepperoni pizza from above.
Prince St. Pizza
Wonho Frank Lee

3. 38 Standout Dining Destinations in Los Angeles

Typically every quarter, Eater LA publishes a map of 38 standout restaurants in the city that best represents Los Angeles’s incredible dining culture. But the coronavirus pandemic changed that as well, prompting ELA staff to suspend our 38 from January until October.

2. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Orders Closure of All Restaurants and Bars

The story that launched LA’s freefall into 2020, when LA mayor Eric Garcetti announced on March 15 the near-complete closure of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues, and gyms in the city until at least March 31.

1. The Cheesecake Factory Tells Landlords Across the Country It Won’t Be Able to Pay Rent on April 1

The top story of 2020 comes from the Calabasas-based Cheesecake Factory. On March 25, the Cheesecake Factory informed its landlords it would not be able to make upcoming rent payments on April 1 because of significant loss of income due to the coronavirus crisis. If anything, that this publicly-traded company refused to provide payment to landlords while smaller independent restaurants paid full rent while receiving minimal help illustrates one of the more frustrating divides of 2020.

Just a few weeks ago, the LA-based company agreed to pay a $125,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission for understating the financial impact of COVID-19 on its operations, and misleading investors in March and April by submitting relatively-glowing financial reports while actually losing millions of dollars per month.