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COVID Reopening: Restaurant Regulars Welcome Return of Indoor Dining in Concord

CONCORD (KPIX) -- With Contra Costa and Sonoma counties moving into the red tier on Sunday, people can now enjoy limited indoor dining throughout the Bay Area. However, just because businesses could open their doors doesn't mean they did.

It was a day so many had waited for: a new beginning, the first day they could eat indoors at restaurants. At La Pinata in Concord, the breakfast buffet was gone but frequent patron Ricardo Perez did get one of his beloved Mexican Bloody Marys.

"I love it," he said. "It's getting back to normal slowly but surely, you know? That's what we all want, honestly, we want to get back to normalcy. Yeah, we have to wear masks at times but, you know what, this is a great start!"

It may have been a great start but it was also a slow one. Turnout was light and, while Ricardo Tonda appreciated his daughter taking him out to breakfast, he would have preferred eating outdoors.

"I like eating outside. It's like being at a picnic to eat outside," Tonda said. "I can see the public and I can see the traffic and I can see everything that there is to see."

It turns out there are certain parts of the public health restrictions that people don't mind or at least have become accustomed to.

"I think people are just used to this new life," said Concord resident Alina Alexander.

She believes people have seen some of the benefits of social distancing and doesn't think it will all go away when everyone is vaccinated.

"I think it will gradually decrease but it's not going to ever go away," Alexander said.

Contra Costa and Sonoma were in a two-week waiting period to join the red tier but then the state reached a goal of two million people vaccinated in highly-vulnerable or economically underserved communities and it abruptly told the counties on Friday they could reopen Sunday.

Lima Restaurant in Concord was caught off-guard and will continue with its dining tent until they know how many customers will want to be inside. It will take some time for Swagat Indian Cuisine to reopen to diners. They had to lay off most of their employees months ago.

"Ninety percent of my workers are gone so I have to find new workers," said Swagat owner Krishna Dumpa.

How long does he think that will take?

"My guess? Three to four months," Dumpa said.

Still, indoor dining is good news after a year of so much bad. Sipping his Bloody Mary, Ricardo Perez said he'll take what he can get even if it doesn't include the breakfast buffet.

"No, I don't have my buffet, unfortunately," he said. "But, you know what? They have a good menu here and we'll make it work. We will make it work."

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