by David Klemt

After Weeks of Prohibition, This is What Los Angeles Restaurants are Facing

by David Klemt

Limited to delivery and takeout for several weeks, Los Angeles restaurants and breweries may now offer outdoor dining.

Of course, that easing of restrictions comes with a raft of new limitations.

The outdoor dining ban was lifted last Friday, January 29. Governor Gavin Newsom rescinded California’s statewide stay-at-home order four days prior, January 25.

Operators, still caught firmly in the vortex of opens, closures and ever-shifting restrictions, will have to weigh the potential to generate in-person dining revenue against limitations and costs.

Outdoor dining capacity of restaurants, breweries and wineries (able to open for outdoor tastings) is restricted to 50 percent. Even an operator with a significant outdoor footprint may find the revenue generated from in-person dining incapable of offsetting associated costs.

Speaking of footprint, operators must also contend with new distance requirements. Outdoor tables must now be spaced a minimum of eight feet apart to ensure guests aren’t seated back to back. This increase from six feet must be measured from the edges of each table.

Any employee who “may come in contact” with a guest is required to wear a face mask and a face shield for the duration of such an interaction, which can’t include tableside preparations.

No live entertainment is permitted, and televisions must remain turned off. Couple the television ban with a prohibition on “coordinated, organized or invited events or gatherings” and Super Bowl parties are clearly not permitted.

Additional limitations pertain to guests and group size. No more than six people may be seated at a table, and each guest must be a member of the same household. Signage informing guests of the household requirement must be posted, and guests must also be given this information verbally.

A “household” in Los Angeles County is defined as “persons living together as a single living unit.” Click here for the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health’s “Protocol for Restaurants, Breweries and Wineries: Appendix I.”

According to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County health director, operators can expect increased scrutiny and enforcement of Covid-19 protocols.

Evidence of enhanced enforcement efforts was seen last week. LA County filed two suits on January 27 against Cronies Sports Grill in Agoura Hills and Tinhorn Flats in Burbank for failing to adhere to health directives. Both suits label the establishments as “public nuisances.”

Some Los Angeles operators may find limited outdoor dining better than no in-person dining at all. However, others may conclude that labor and PPE costs alone aren’t worth restricted reopening, to say nothing of contending with increased governmental scrutiny.

Image: David Mark from Pixabay