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What Does LA County’s Planned Move into the Yellow Tier Mean for Restaurants and Bars?

All the details for tomorrow’s expected announcement of a move into the least restrictive coronavirus tier, plus what to expect this summer

Los Angeles Eases Pandemic Restrictions On Tourist & Entertainment Industry
People head for the beach from a parking lot
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Los Angeles County continues to rebound dramatically from a deadly winter COVID-19 surge, and with vaccinations continuing at a rapid pace there’s increasing certainty that public health officials will move the county (and its many businesses, large and small) into the state’s least restrictive reopening tier this week. A move into the yellow tier, the lowest of California’s four-tiered, colored reopening plan, would mark a near-miraculous turn of events in just a matter of months, and would allow virtually all businesses — including bars that do not serve food — to offer some level of indoor capacity for customers. LA County only returned for indoor dining at restaurants in March.

Los Angeles County actually met the data qualifications for the yellow tier last week, but state guidelines say that each county must maintain its status within any new tier for at least two weeks before moving. The primary data point being considered now is the daily adjusted case rate for new coronavirus infections, which must be at two or fewer cases per 100,000 residents. Last week the county was at 1.9 percent, and officials announced zero deaths and just 313 new cases over the past weekend, making a push into the yellow tier a near certainty. State officials release new tier assignments weekly on Tuesdays.

LA County Public Health Director Dr. Ferrer has already said publicly that, once approved by the state, her office and the LA County Board of Supervisors will move to modify the county public health order on Wednesday, with plans for those changes to take effect beginning on Thursday morning. Here’s what the new yellow tier assignment would mean for restaurants and bars:

For bars that do not serve food

  • Max 25 percent indoor dining capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
  • Capacity may increase to 37.5 percent if all guests show proof of negative test or full vaccination
  • No time limits or additional limitation on hours of service

For restaurants

For wineries, breweries, distilleries

  • Max 50 percent indoor dining capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer
  • No time limits or additional limitation on hours of service

This week’s likely move to the yellow tier comes amidst a fast-moving last few days and weeks, as the Center for Disease control offered updated guidance for fully-vaccinated people (including no longer needing to wear masks while outside). More recently, the LA County Department of Public Health revised its own public health order to allow for the return of indoor arcades at limited capacity (and with safety measures in place), opening up a return path for places like Barcade in Highland Park and Button Mash in Echo Park, which closed last fall without a plan to reopen. Ownership at Button Mash says they’re hoping to get back to serving customers soon. The modified local order also removed restrictions on hours of operation for bars, breweries, and wineries.

Given the current trajectory of the state’s vaccine rollout, and its low infection rates, it’s still reasonable that (per Governor Gavin Newsom) California could ‘fully reopen’ by June 15. As for LA County (and surround counties) moving into the yellow tier, expect a formal announcement on Tuesday, May 4, with the LA County Department of Public Health and independent public health officials in Pasadena and Long Beach following closely behind.

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