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What Los Angeles County’s ‘Safer at Home’ Order Means for Restaurants

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The directive closes nonessential businesses: restaurants, farmers markets, and grocery stores can remain open

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Los Angeles, like San Francisco, now has its own government mandate to stay at home, which is being billed as a “Safer at Home” order. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer jointly announced the new directive in a press conference just moments ago. The order, which closes nonessential businesses, requires social distancing for more than 10 million people across the most populous county in America. Dr. Ferrer said the order would be in place starting tonight at midnight, and would stay in effect until April 19, 2020.

Restaurants — along with grocery stores, pharmacies, food banks, farmers markets, convenience stores, and other food businesses — are considered “essential businesses.” The directive allows them to continue to operate under a delivery or takeout model, as in the Bay Area, where “shelter in place” was instituted on March 17. Drive-thru, delivery, and takeout have been practically the only way to eat at restaurants in Los Angeles since California Governor Gavin Newsom shuttered bars and dining rooms statewide two days ago and street vending was banned in the City of Los Angeles yesterday.

Barger called on residents to continue to purchase food from restaurants, to not hoard grocery store items at home, and to buy gift cards for possible later use as a way of supporting restaurants now. “The order is the next step to protecting our residents from the coronavirus by increasing our social distancing,” Barger said. “We know that staying at home and decreasing contact is the best way to halt the spread.” Supervisor Barger later noted that “we’re not going to have law enforcement out there arresting people” who do not comply, but did say that takeout and delivery restaurants that allow crowding without maintaining social distance could have their health permit revoked.

“We must slow the number of new cases that we have,” said public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “Without slowing the number of new cases, we will, for sure, overwhelm not just the healthcare system, but a number of essential services as workers themselves fall ill.”

With the entirety of the Bay Area and all of Los Angeles County under similar mandates, the vast majority of the state’s 39.5 million residents are now under government directives to stay at home, except to obtain “essential” services or goods. All gatherings of more than 10 people in a “confined space” are banned, and while people are allowed to do things like shop at grocery stores or pick up food from restaurants, they must be kept at least six feet apart.

“We’re about to enter into a new way of living here in Los Angeles, for a period,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We are all safer at home.”

This story is being updated as it develops.

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