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June 23, 2020
What We Know About Eating In LA Restaurants Right Now
Patios, party sizes, and plenty more: We answer all your questions as LA County restaurants reopen for dine-in service.

On May 29, Los Angeles County announced that restaurants could reopen for dine-in service, provided they follow a very specific set of guidelines laid out by the Department of Public Health (you can read the whole thing here, if you’re really into checklists, charts, and the California Retail Food Code).

But we understand that reading ten-pages of government-speak might not be your idea of fun, so, in short, restaurants here are now on the same path - er, “Roadmap to Recovery” - as spots in neighboring Ventura and Orange counties, and potential patrons probably have the same set of questions. So we’re going to unpack the most important info below, to help you better understand what eating at a restaurant looks like right now.

Read our first Reopening Report: Dinner At Dan Tana’s.

And check out our updated guides to LA Restaurants Where You Can Eat Outside Today and LA Restaurants With New Patios And Outdoor Seating.

Do I have to wear a mask?

Yes - at least until your food arrives. LA County mandates that “diners must wear cloth face coverings when not eating or drinking.”

Does the restaurant staff have to wear masks?

Yes. According to Dept. of Health guidelines, “all employees who have contact with the public or other employees” must wear a cloth face covering during their shifts. In addition, any employee who serves customers not wearing a mask must wear a face shield, and any employee who moves items used by customers - like dirty cups, plates, and napkins - or handles trash bags must use disposable gloves.

What else are restaurants doing to ensure a sanitary environment?

For starters, if employees feel sick, or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, the Dept. of Health says they are not allowed to work. (And to encourage them to stay home, restaurants must inform employees of any leave benefits they may be entitled to receive.) Restaurants are required to check employees for symptoms before they can enter the workspace. A temperature check is also recommended.

Common areas and frequently touched objects in the restaurant - like restrooms, tables, doorknobs, and credit-card readers - must be disinfected on an hourly basis. On each shift, an employee must be designated to enforce sanitization and disinfection procedures. Breaks are staggered to ensure employees can adhere to social-distancing guidelines in breakrooms.

Dining rooms, host stands, and kitchens must be equipped with hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for all employees to use. Hand sanitizer should be made available to customers at or near the restaurant’s entrance. Reusable menus must be cleaned and disinfected between customers, and paper menus are required to be discarded after each customer use. Seating areas must be cleaned and sanitized between use, and items like cutlery, flatware, and glasses cannot be placed on a table before customers are seated. After the meal, takeout containers can only be filled by customers.

Will I have to get my temperature checked before I’m seated?

No, though restaurants may choose to require temperature checks of customers. The Dept. of Health adds that “if you feel sick, please stay home and do not go to a restaurant.”

How crowded will restaurants be?

As you probably guessed, social-distancing guidelines remain in place - meaning restaurants must ensure a minimum of six feet between tables, even on patios. The Dept. of Health even suggests installing barriers like partitions or plexiglass in areas where maintaining a physical distance of six feet is difficult. Indoor dining capacity is not to exceed 60% of a restaurant’s prior maximum seating capacity, and though outdoor seating areas are required to adhere to those social-distancing requirements, they are not included in a restaurant’s total occupancy limit.

How many people can I bring with me?

On-site seating at a table is limited to no more than six people per party.

Can I sit outside?

Definitely, in fact, the City of Los Angeles just unveiled a program called LA Al Fresco, designed to make it easier for restaurants to expand outdoor dining to sidewalks, parking lots, and, potentially, streets.

All of this really makes me want a drink - can I head down to my favorite bar?

On Friday (June 19), all bars, wineries, breweries, and tasting rooms in LA County were given the OK to reopen - as long as they follow a series of guidelines. Bar seating is only allowed if customers are able to maintain six feet of distance between themselves, other patrons, and the bartender.

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