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Reopening: Widespread Confusion, Anger Over Alameda County's Outdoor Dining Ban

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- It's been in place for less than 24 hours, but restaurant owners, local polticians and county residents seemed bewildered, angered and confused Saturday night by an Alameda County health official's order banning outdoor dining.

If you live in Alameda County can you meet your friends for an al fresco dinner Saturday night?

Many of the downtown Livermore and Pleasanton restaurants were ignoring the new state guidelines and continuing to offer outdoor dining.

"This is really going insane. There's no way that we can just like shut down and throw away food, money," said Esteban Blancas, the general manager of Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton.'

He said they already bought thousands of dollars worth of food for this weekend. He said the state can't just tell them to shut down with no advance warning.

"Sad, confusing," said Blancas, about the lack of clarity from local and state officials.

"We can continue until the actual directive to enforce comes through which could be Monday or Tuesday," said Rachael Snedecor, the executive director of Livermore Downtown, which is the local business association.

She said until Alameda County bans outdoor dining, which it has not, they view the new state guidelines as an advisory.

"I was really proud of (Livermore city leaders) to say we don't have an order (from the Alameda County health department), let's not do a knee-jerk reaction," said Snedecor.

Even though the City of Livermore sent out a statement on Saturday saying police officers will not ticket any businesses for operating outdoor dining, many still worried the state will come in and cite them. They pointed to the ABC agents who recently went to some businesses down in the South Bay.

"You add insult to injury after insult to injury. I mean we've got staff here. I've got to lay them off again? Are you kidding me? Come on. We've got a P.P.P. loan which is now about run out. We need business. We need to be opened," said Kyle Conner, owner of Alameda Theater and Cinema Grill.

Conner said they've already invested a lot of money to keep the outdoor section clean and safe for their customers. He was debating whether or not to shut down his restaurant patio in Alameda.

He heard about the state advisory, but had heard nothing from the county or the City of Alameda. The city just re-striped Park and Webster streets this week to encourage outdoor dining and shopping. But many business owners on the island were holding off.

"Now, we're being forced to move backwards is extremely frustrating," said Conner.

"Very disappointing, very sad that we have to go back to square one," said Miguel Pool, the assistant manager at Cinema Grill.

As for Pleasanton and Livermore, the local business associations told their restaurants outdoor dining should be okay at least for this weekend.

"That confusion really adds a lot of stress to the business owners because we have to plan (ahead)," Mike Allen with First Street Wine Company in downtown Livermore.

The Alameda County Health Department plans to apply for a variances from the state to get special permission to continue outdoor dining.

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