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LA’s Orange Tier Status Will Allow Bars to Reopen and Restaurants to Seat More Diners

County public health officials are formalizing a regional plan to allow for dining modifications starting Monday, April 5

Cha Cha Chá’s indoor dining area in Los Angeles, California
A brand new bar ready for indoor service
Wonho Frank Lee

There’s more news today on the broad orange tier reopening plan in place for Los Angeles County. Per LA County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the nation’s most populous county will move to align with California state guidance (mostly) beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, April 5. That leaves a few extra days for bars, breweries, wineries, and restaurants to prepare for the largest hospitality industry reopening since the start of the pandemic, as LA has never progressed out of the state’s red tier before.

So what does Monday’s orange tier reopening mean for businesses? Increased indoor dining capacity for restaurants, some modifications like the ability to offer television viewing outdoors, and changes to the way that bars, wineries, and distilleries seat and serve drinkers. The move to this less-restrictive tier, part of the state’s ongoing color-coded risk assessment system for businesses, will also allow for previously-closed bars that do not serve food to reopen for limited-capacity outdoor service — a big win for many small business owners who have been unable to operate since the pandemic lockdowns first began in March 2020.

While the reopenings are welcome news for most small business owners (as well as corporate movie theater chains, live outdoor entertainment venues, card rooms, and theme parks), they do come with a new set of necessary coronavirus protocols to follow. Ferrer said in a press conference yesterday that owners should expect “to see some changes that we’ve made in terms of safety modifications,” adding that “the general framework for moving forward with reopening” would align with state guidance. Pressed for examples, Ferrer said that reopening bars would need to offer reservations and time limits for on-site drinkers, just as breweries and wineries did when first opening for outdoor service earlier this year. The LA County Department of Public Health will announce its formal modifications to the ongoing public health order this Friday. Some of the expected updates can be seen below.

Orange County, meanwhile, has already progressed into the orange reopening tier. The county wasted little time in further reopening businesses once given the green light to do by state officials, kicking things off earlier this morning. More locally, independent Los Angeles County cities Pasadena and Long Beach (each with their own public health departments) have indicated that they will likely align with greater LA County DPH in waiting until Monday, April 5 to allow the new orange tier modifications.

Part of the reason for waiting until April 5, Ferrer said yesterday, is to ensure that the county’s dipping COVID-19 numbers don’t tick up slightly following the previous move into the red tier just three weeks ago. “We need this third week to make sure we are not seeing a rise in cases,” as other regions have, Ferrer said, though she noted that many of the area’s most at-risk and elderly have already been given at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, meaning it’s possible (perhaps even likely) that Los Angeles case counts stay low.

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