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Long Beach Confirms Return to Indoor Dining This Weekend, as LA Officials Stay Quiet

Mayor Robert Garcia confirmed the news in a press conference ahead of formal state announcements. LA County officials have not fully confirmed their own red tier plans

Gavin Newsom and Robert Garcia
Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/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.

The city of Long Beach, which has its own public health department and can operate independently of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, has confirmed this morning that it plans to align with the state’s red tier reopening modifications, which could begin to take effect at essentially any time. The move, announced in a public press conference by Mayor Robert Garcia in front of Kress Market on Pine Avenue, means that — once approval comes down from state officials — restaurants in Long Beach will be allowed to open at 25 percent indoor dining capacity immediately.

That may not necessarily be the case for the rest of LA County.

Currently, all of Los Angeles and surrounding counties like Ventura and Orange remain in the state’s most restrictive purple tier. But an equitable vaccine redistribution plan laid out by state officials is changing the metrics for moving to the lower, less-restrictive red tier, meaning much of Southern California could become more widely open for on-site indoor dining and other limited-capacity activities (like indoor gyms, movie theaters, increased retail capacity, museums, and even outdoor public events) as soon as word comes down.

“Restaurants will be allowed to open indoors with a maximum of 25% capacity along with the outdoor dining that’s already in place,” Long Beach mayor Garcia said. “We’re also going to ensure that there will be rules and regulations as it relates to restaurants and other facilities as it relates to distancing inside and PPE protocol. We want our restaurants to be prepared.”

Cha Cha Chá patio in the Arts District, Los Angeles, California.
Outdoor seating at the new Cha Cha Cha in the Arts District
Wonho Frank Lee

Long Beach and Pasadena each have their own independent public health departments, and can act in their own cities’ interests with regards to things like public health orders and restrictions on travel and businesses — though more often than not those public health departments align with the much larger Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. All regional public health departments are allowed to draft more restrictive (but not less) public health orders than the state requires.

Eater has reached out to the city of Pasadena to confirm its own plans to reopen for indoor dining this weekend, but has not received a formal response back just yet. Last fall, the city broke with LA County DPH to allow outdoor on-site dining for longer than the rest of the county, at least until the state shut things down broadly just a few days later.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials have not formalized their own plans for moving into the red tier, though director Dr. Barbara Ferrer has said that her office will make some modifications to the state announcement that could be more restrictive — including a cap on indoor dining. In a media briefing this week, Dr. Ferrer discussed at length a CDC report that indicated a higher risk of COVID-19 infection with unmasked diners in indoor settings. Her office is likely to make its red tier modifications public within “48 hours” of the state’s reopening announcement, Dr. Ferrer has said.

The state’s reopening plan hinges on a vaccine redistribution effort that targets the hardest-hit communities. Once two million doses have been distributed to those areas, the qualifying metrics for moving between tiers — things like test positivity rate — will shift, allowing nearly all of Southern California to move to the less restrictive red tier. A formal announcement on that front has not been made yet, but Long Beach mayor Garcia indicated that one could be made as soon as today, though tomorrow is more likely. “It’s really dependent on the state,” said Garcia.