Red-tier move swings more business doors open to indoor customers on Monday in LA County – Daily News

on Mar15
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Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 15, Los Angeles County residents will be dining, moviegoing and working out inside scores of relieved businesses, though at limited capacities.

On Monday, Los Angeles County restaurants will again welcome diners indoors and movie theaters and fitness centers will be able to open anew, with customers widely spaced, when the county shifts to the less-restrictive red tier in the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.” County officials confirmed the move Friday, when the state attained the benchmark of administering 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in high-risk communities across California, all rock particularly hard by the pandemic.

Businesses in Orange and San Bernardino counties got a one-day jump on L.A., allowing red-tier openings on Sunday.

In Redlands, Garret Fuson of Moreno Valley and Meagan Griffin of Redlands waited in a half-hour line Sunday to get into the Copehouse Bar & Bistro, a tiny restaurant on Orange Street Alley.

They brought a bouquet of flowers to give to their server.

“We came out to support small business,” said Fuson.

Avid moviegoers trickled into Century Theaters at Bella Terra in Huntington Beach, one of the only theaters in Orange County to open on the first day of more flexible red tier pandemic rules.

Huntington Beach resident Jeff Alexander was among them. He bought snacks and a drink before heading into an afternoon showing of sci-fi thriller Chaos Walking.

“I’m happy to be back,” he said. “I didn’t even care what I saw, just picked the first showing and I went.”

Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa buzzed with lunchtime patrons Sunday as the popular dumpling restaurant spaced out tables in parts of its dining room, but continued to seat diners in an outdoor patio as takeout orders also flowed out of the kitchen.

Orange County leaders, including Dr. Clayton Chau, Orange County Health Care Agency director and county health officer, are hoping the turning pandemic tide leads to a quick succession though less-restrictive tiers, as state guidelines allow.

Chau said this week that unless promising metric trends bottom out or reverse, Orange County could qualify for the next-best orange tier — and another round of softening rules — by mid-April.

Up north,  Contra Costa County joined the state’s most populated areas in the biggest mass reopening since autumn. People eagerly swarmed streets in such downtown areas as Danville and Walnut Creek to dine inside and stroll along jammed sidewalks as if emerging from winter hibernation.

And they came with the hope that — with things headed slowly but steadily in the right direction — the easing of restrictions will last this time.

As Patty McCurdy, general manager of The Peasant & The Pear restaurant in downtown Danville, put it: “It feels different.”

Meanwhile Sunday, L.A. County’s rate of new cases and hospitalizations continued their general decline on Sunday. The county health department reported 644 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 additional deaths, though officials said Sunday’s case numbers and deaths reported may reflect delays in weekend reporting.

The number of county residents in the hospital with the virus dropped from 951 Saturday to 893, with 251 in intensive care. The county has now logged 1,210,265 cases of COVID-19 and 22,474 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Under red tier guidelines announced by Los Angeles County on Thursday, indoor dining can resume at 25% of capacity. The county will require restaurants to have 8 feet of distance between all tables, which will be restricted to a maximum of six people from the same household. The rules also call for ventilation to be increased “to the maximum extent possible.”

“We’re thrilled that this is happening now, but it’s been a year of struggle for everyone. It hasn’t been pretty for a lot of our independent restaurateurs,” Pasadena restaurateur Gregg Smith said, adding that he knows a number of eateries that have shuttered permanently in the city. “We feel very sad about that because we’re a tight knit group.”

In Northridge, Lorena Sanchez couldn’t wait to welcome customers back into her Bob’s Big Boy diner. She’s happy to be opening her doors to customers, but said it will take more than a 25% capacity for her to get into the black and stay there.

“It’s not going to be enough but anything will help,” she said.

AMC Theatres announced that it will reopen its Century City 15 and Burbank 16 theaters on Monday afternoon, with the balance of its movie houses opening March 19.

“As we have done at more than 525 locations around the country, AMC will reopen with the highest devotion to the health and safety of our guests and associates through our AMC Safe & Clean policies and protocols, which were developed in consultation with Clorox and with current and former faculty at the prestigious Harvard University School of Public Health,” AMC President/CEO Adam Aron said.

Cinemark listed showtimes on Monday for its theaters in Downey, Long Beach, North Hollywood, Playa Vista, Lancaster, Palmdale and L.A. Harkins listed showtimes for its Cerritos 16 theater starting Wednesday.

Regal did not list any new showtimes on its sites. Neither did Arclight.

Such big-budget action fare as “Godzilla vs. Kong,” starring — well, you know — plus Marvel’s “Black Widow,” “F9” (the latest in the Fast and Furious franchise), and Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” are expected to welcome moviegoers back to the great indoors in the weeks ahead.

Laemmle Theatres, which specializes in foreign films and prestige pictures, said it would be screening again within five weeks.

“Details are still being finalized regarding exactly which locations will open first and what percentage capacities will be allowed, so make sure to stay tuned for further updates,” said Gabriel Laemmle in a weekend blog post. “In the meantime, you can help by remaining diligent with your COVID safety protocols and best practices. We’ve spotted land on the horizon – now is no time to jump ship.”

Rules for other businesses that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday largely align with state guidance for the red tier:

  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can open indoors at 25% of capacity;
  • Gyms and fitness centers can open indoors at 10% capacity, with required masking;
  • Movie theaters can open at 25% capacity with reserved seating to provide at least six feet of distance between patrons;
  • Retail and personal care businesses can increase indoor capacity to 50%; and
  • Indoor shopping malls can reopen at 50%, with common areas remaining closed, but food courts can open at 25% capacity and in adherence with the other requirements for indoor restaurants.

Moving to the red tier will also allow the reopening of theme parks as early as April 1 — including Disneyland in Orange County and Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles County — at 15% of capacity, with in-state visitors only.

The rules also permit resumption of activities at institutes of higher education, and reopening of in-person instruction for students in grades 7-12. Private indoor gatherings are also permitted for people from up to three different households, with masking and physical distancing. People who are vaccinated can gather in small groups indoors without masking or distancing.

“This is welcome news, especially as many of our small businesses have borne the brunt of the financial fallout from this pandemic, and as our students struggle to keep up with distance learning,” county Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said. “We have achieved this milestone and moved down to the ‘red’ tier because as a county we worked hard, looked out for one another and came together to defeat the dark winter surge.

“Although we are taking steps to re-open some of the hardest hit sectors of our economy, that in no way means we can drop our guard now,” she said. “We owe it to our neighbors, our local businesses, and our children to remain vigilant so that the re-openings are safe and long-lasting — wearing masks and physical distancing remain critical.”

The cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, which both have their own health departments separate from the county, also announced they will shift to the red tier and enact new loosened rules — largely mirroring the county — on Monday.

Los Angeles County has not announced any plans to adopt the new guidelines on non-food-serving breweries and wineries. Counties are permitted to impose tougher restrictions than the state.

Staff writers Elliott Almond, Aldo Toldeo, Ian Wheeler and Fielding Buck, as well as City News Service and the Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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