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LA-Area Casinos Are Opening Restaurants and Bars for the Holiday Weekend

Morongo and others near Palm Springs open today, and Pechanga opens next week near Temecula

An oval white bar inside of a casino on the floor.
A bar inside of Morongo Casino
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.

A number of greater Los Angeles-area casinos are reopening this weekend, complicating the state’s stay at home mandates during what could be a particularly busy Memorial Day weekend.

Morongo Casino in Cabazon, near Palm Springs in Riverside County, is set to reopen today at 2 p.m., says CBS L.A., joining Tortoise Rock, Agua Caliente, and other casinos in the Coachella Valley that are opening today. Pechanga, just outside of Temecula (also in Riverside County) will open next week, along with Soboba near San Jacinto, reports KTLA.

Reps for the casinos say that the plan is to limit the number of customers inside, with temperature checks at the doors and a modified cleaning schedule. Players will be distanced throughout the large spaces, meaning fewer seats at table games and either increased space or modified barriers between slot machines. Cielo, the steakhouse restaurant at Morongo, will reopen next week instead of today, but the casino’s food court will be up and running for gaming diners. Restaurants at Tortoise Rock and nearby Spotlight 29 casino will also be open.

California governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to tribal leaders last week, urging them to follow state and local timelines for reopening, says the LA Times. “I cannot stress enough that the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains a serious threat for all Californians,” Newsom said in his letter, adding: “In the spirit of sovereign-to-sovereign engagement I respectfully request that until a surrounding or neighboring local jurisdiction has legally progressed into Stage 3, your tribal casinos remain closed.” Tribal land is federally protected, and does not need to adhere to local guidelines.

Other casinos are similarly reopening across California, throwing a wrench in Newsom’s phased rollout of reduced limitations during the coronavirus pandemic. Even as other counties like Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Diego move deeper into phase two, allowing the return of retail and in-restaurant dining), casinos are considered a part of Newsom’s phase three, higher-risk reopening timeline — which is why card rooms like the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens will remain closed. Riverside County officials, meanwhile, have stated publicly that they will not enforce stay at home orders any longer.