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California Governor Releases Official Guidelines for Reopening of Restaurants

Bars must remain closed unless they serve dine-in meals

California Governor Gavin Newsom alongside San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo host roundtable
Governor Gavin Newsom
Photo by Anda Chu/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Nearly two months after San Diego County mandated an immediate stop to dine-in service, prompting many eateries to pivot to takeout and delivery or just close temporarily, California Governor Gavin Newsom has shared specific new guidelines that will allow restaurants to move towards restarting seated dining as part of the state’s Phase 2 reopening schedule.

The COVID-19 industry guidance document for dine-in restaurants is a detailed rundown of measures, from employee testing and training to cleaning and disinfecting protocol that includes suspending use of shared food items such as condiment bottles and discontinuing tableside food preparation. New physical distancing guidelines range from prioritizing outdoor seating and asking customers to wait in their cars while waiting to be seated to using partitions or removing tables and chairs from dining areas to ensure that six feet of physical distance can be maintained for customers and employees; the guide also says to limit the number of patrons at a single table to a household unit or patrons who have asked to be seated together. It indicates that guests and visitors should be screened for symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and need to bring and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking.

At this time, brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries should continue to remain closed unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals.

A Cal/OSHA COVID-19 general checklist provides a summary of the guidelines to help restaurants institute the new changes.

For local restaurants, it all hinges on when San Diego can meet state requirements or be afforded “regional variance” that would allow the county to implement a different approach. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox sent a letter to the Governor on Monday asking him to “give San Diego County the autonomy to reopen additional economic sectors based on clear, consistent, and achievable metrics”, saying that some of state’s reopening criteria “are not realistic standards that can be met anytime soon in large counties”.

But all this might be coming too late for a growing number of San Diego restaurants that have decided to permanently shutter rather than reopen.

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