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As New Lockdown Threat Looms, LA Health Department Will Act on Non-Compliant Restaurants

Governor Gavin Newsom says it may be necessary to “toggle back” some of the reopenings so far, including bars and restaurants

Restaurants serving on the patio at Glendale’s Americana at Brand.
Restaurants serving on the patio at Glendale’s Americana at Brand
Matthew Kang
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 city and county officials continue to weigh a slew of options around reducing the growing spread of the coronavirus, including new compliance enforcement measures against bars and restaurants. Those businesses found to be flouting the rules could be subject to a number of consequences, from warnings to citations to formal investigations and, potentially, (at least temporary) shutdowns. “We are now going out,” Dr. Ferrer said in a call with media members yesterday, “and will be — starting this weekend — issuing orders for people to come into compliance, which is the first step to opening a formal investigation.”

When the county reopening for restaurants was first announced in late May, health director Dr. Ferrer said that businesses would operate on the “honor system” when abiding by the pages-long reopening protocols. Those protocols include guidance on everything from wearing masks and face shields, to limiting customer contact with things like condiment containers and menus, to social distancing in the dining room and in kitchens. In mid-June, a check-in at some 2,000 restaurants found that half were not in compliance, though none of those businesses were cited at the time.

Meanwhile, there is there growing concern within certain sectors of the government that a round of reopening rollbacks, and possibly even renewed shelter-in-place orders, could be coming to Los Angeles in the coming weeks, per private conversations shared with Eater.

Dr. Ferrer said in yesterday’s call that it was “abundantly clear” that the county had provided ample guidance on proper reopening protocols, and that restaurants must “make sure they adhere to all of the directives” or they could face consequences. Eater reached out for more information on the number of Department of Public Health inspectors that will be used during the ongoing sweeps, and the businesses affected, but that information was not provided.

In Texas, bars were shut down today by order of the governor following a spike in cases there, and restaurants have had to further limit their capacity once again to 50 percent. A similar announcement was made this morning in Florida, with bars mandated to close after a jump to 9,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide. Bars were originally opened across much of Florida on June 5; there is no timetable for their return.

Los Angeles County continues to outpace the nation in total coronavirus cases, while surrounding counties like Ventura and Orange are leading a “dangerous” surge in hospitalization rates across the state. California has witnessed a 69 percent increase in total cases in just the past few days, and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has once again begun urging people to remain at home except for essential trips.

California governor Gavin Newsom is now saying that the state could begin to “toggle back” certain state orders surrounding reopenings and stay-at-home orders. “We don’t intend to do that. We don’t want to do that,” Gov. Newsom said this week when discussing the possibility of closing sectors of the economy again to help quell the growing pandemic. “But I want to make this clear: We are prepared to do that, if we must.”