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California Restaurant Dining Rooms Won’t Be Allowed to Reopen This Week

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Governor Gavin Newsom announces slow reopening of retail businesses and factories on May 8

Hospital Ship USNS Mercy Arrives at the Port of Los Angeles
California governor Gavin Newsom
Photo by Carolyn Cole-Pool/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.

Governor Gavin Newsom today announced plans to potentially reopen certain sections of the California economy, though restaurant dining rooms continue to hang in limbo.

Per Newsom, the easing of stay at home restrictions will begin as soon as this Friday, May 8, though Newsom was firm in saying that restaurants would not be among the first businesses to reopen. “The process,” Newsom said, “will begin later this week. On Thursday the seventh, we will put out guidelines, and if those guidelines are met and modifications are made, businesses can begin to reopen as early as the end of the week.” Those guidelines will discuss things like physical distancing and other “state readiness criteria” needed for reopening.

Restaurants and retail have been grouped together as part of Newsom’s phasing-in plan for the past several weeks. Yet today, he specified a group of business types — including sporting goods stores, clothing shops, florists, and toy stores, as well as related manufacturing — that could open as soon as this Friday, May 8, and specifically excluded “seated dining” for restaurants.

Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s public health director, says that the public can “look forward to us sharing guidance and data on when [restaurants] can reopen” in the coming days. Angell and Newsom both added that individual counties may submit their own easing plans that could allow restaurants to reopen more quickly in some areas versus others. For some counties, such as Orange and Ventura, that could be well ahead of the much larger Los Angeles County, with its population north of 10 million. “We have great confidence in local health officials in understanding the needs of their very specific communities,” Newsom said.

“We are entering into the new phase this week,” Newsom noted, doubling down on the “regional variation, but only after self-certification.” Because Newsom’s phase two includes a variety of different businesses spread all across the state, Newsom indicated that he would rely on regional/local health departments and governments when making final decisions on restaurant dining room reopenings. Some counties, including Sutter, Yuba, and Modoc, have already begun reopening, while in Orange County one restaurant last weekend opened despite a closure mandate.

The governor’s announcement first centered on a new tracing plan that will begin to allow state and local officials the opportunity to track the spread of the virus in real time. When coupled with robust testing and increased hospital capacity, Newsom has said, tracing could become an important part of scaling up the information needed to continue to reopen other sectors of the economy, including places like nail salons, gyms, and — eventually — large-scale live events. Los Angeles County has already begun to release its own list of retail and restaurant spaces that have multiple confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.