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Here’s Everything to Know About LA’s Big Restaurant Reopening Today

There are still questions about masks, but otherwise the usual coronavirus protocols are all but gone — unless your favorite restaurant says otherwise, that is

Outdoor dining at dusk with twinkle lights.
Patio dining
Andrea Bricco

Today’s the day, as they say. June 15 has been circled on lots of calendars across California for months now, a date marked as the beginning of the end for much of the global coronavirus pandemic as we know it, when officials from Governor Gavin Newsom to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer have said that restaurants, diners, retail businesses, and just about everyone in between can “get back to normal.”

Of course, it’s not all quite as simple as that. Here’s what we know about the new rules in place, starting today, across Southern California and the rest of the state.

Masks are gone for most

For vaccinated individuals, masks are going to become much less common starting today. In general public settings (think parks, stores, gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, and more) masks will no longer be required for fully vaccinated people, though unvaccinated Californians are still required to wear one.

It’s important to note that some businesses may continue to require masks on customers’ faces, as is their right, so be sure to carry one just in case. The LA Times says that starting today two large grocery chains, Ralphs and Food 4 Less, will not require masks for shopping, nor will Chipotle.

What about workers?

Don’t be surprised if you continue to see masks on workers at restaurants, in retail settings, and beyond, at least for now. That’s because Cal/OSHA, the ultimate state-level governing board for workplace rules, has yet to decide how it will handle the mask-or-no-mask debate in mixed environments (like if some, but not all, servers are vaccinated at a restaurant). What’s more, there’s still some gray area on how businesses will handle the verification of vaccination status in mixed-vaccination settings, such as restaurants where diners are permitted to sit inside. Do all diners need to be vaccinated, or masked? What about interactions with servers, back of house, diners, valet drivers, etc.? More to come on that.

So for today and much of this week, at least, expect workers to wear masks. The board is meeting on Thursday, and Newsom has said that if they vote to do away with masks in the workplace for fully vaccinated staff, he will sign an executive order making the change effective immediately.

All the rest that’s Beyond the Blueprint

Though details were late in arriving yesterday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has officially published its new guidance for restaurants and other businesses operating in this new post-rules world. As the summary states, in line with the state of California, most of the “sector-specific protocols” like social distancing, capacity limits, time limits on reservations, COVID-19 sanitizing protocols, and the like, are gone.

Again, this is the guidance being drafted by LA County’s Department of Public Health and aligned with the public health departments of Pasadena, Orange County, and Long Beach. That being said, not all restaurants will return to full capacity right away, and not all restaurants will allow customers to go mask-free right away. It’s going be a slow reopening process for many, in part because of worker shortages, product shortages, and a general wish to take things slow, so don’t be surprised if some old protocols remain in place at certain spots for now.

Otherwise, today’s the day for reopening in California, some 15 months after the first wave of lockdowns began in March 2020. Congratulations Los Angeles.

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