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LA County Enters Orange Tier, Guidelines Ease For Restaurants, Salons; Bars Can Reopen Outdoors

SHERMAN OAKS (CBSLA) -- Los Angeles County officially transitioned into the orange tier of California coronavirus reopening blueprint Monday, allowing bars to reopen outdoors and businesses to ease capacity guidelines.

Santa Monica and Venice people talk about reopenings with spring break and the holidays.
A cadre of college friends visiting during Spring break from New York and New Jersey dining at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica as people take advantage of the warm weather during the COVID-19 Spring break in Southern California Monday. Santa Monica Pier and Promenade on Monday, March 29, 2021 in Santa Monia, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

Restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship can increase indoor services to 50% capacity. Bars that do not serve food will also be able to open again with only outdoor service between 11:30 a.m. and 10 p.m.

"I like to think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It certainly feels like it," said Lisa Witkowski, the manager of Petit Trois Le Valley in Sherman Oaks, Sunday.

Breweries and wineries are now able to offer indoor service at 25% of capacity as of Monday. Breweries, wineries, bars and restaurants are allowed to turn on their television sets outdoors, but live entertainment remains prohibited.

The restrictions have left some business owners less than thrilled.

"We think that the capacity restrictions are somewhat arbitrary and that we have systems in place to welcome more guests back, but we're obviously honoring the ruling of where we operate," Matthew Smith, CMO of the Madera Group, said.

L.A. County was eligible to upgrade from the red to orange tier on March 31, but public health officials chose to wait until 12:01 a.m. Monday to make the move.

"Every seat counts for us," said Kevin Zadoyan, owner of Tekila in Sherman Oaks. "Every seat we can occupy at our restaurant means a great deal for everyone: For our staff for our servers."

Gyms will be able to operate at 25% capacity indoors. Nail salons and other personal care services can operate at 75% capacity.

And while state guidelines allow a lifting of all capacity restrictions on retail establishments in the orange tier, Los Angeles County is imposing a 75% limit for grocery stores and other retail operations, while "strongly" recommending they remain at 50% of capacity until April 15 to allow time for more workers to get vaccinated.

Zadoyan said it's been a difficult year for business but like many others, he is optimistic about the future.

"That whole feeling of going back to normal dining indoors and being in a beautiful restaurant means a lot to everyone involved," added Zadoyan.

Theme parks are allowed to have 25% capacity, while outdoor sports venues, such as Dodger Stadium, are allowed to have 33% capacity. Both are only allowed only in-state visitors, however.

On Sunday night, meanwhile, the Santa Monica Pier got so crowded that police were forced to limit access to it.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, parted ways with the county and immediately moved to orange-tier rules last Wednesday.  Pasadena, which also has its own health department, followed the county's lead and waited until Monday before changing its restrictions.

L.A. County's metrics continued to trend in the right direction Sunday, as 535 new cases of COVID-19 and just three additional deaths were reported, although health officials said the lower number of deaths may reflect reporting delays over the weekend.

L.A. County has now recorded at least 1,222,114 cases and 23,275 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties remain in the red tier. They will find out Tuesday whether they qualify to move up to orange.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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