Don’t expect your favorite restaurant to start seating diners immediately, even though L.A. restaurants were given the go ahead on Friday to open up restaurant dining rooms again.
“I would be impressed if anyone opens this weekend,” said Teresa Montaño, chef/owner of Otoño in Highland Park, also saying, “It kind of seems like a very abrupt decision by the government to open.”
Montaño and others we talked to greeted the governor's announcement with a combination of delight, confusion and caution.
For one thing, the updated set of rules and guidelines that restaurants must follow were not posted on the county health department website until Friday afternoon. A few of the requirements included in 10 pages of rules and diagrams:
• Seating capacity is capped at 60% of normal
• Customers in different parties must be seated at least six feet apart if there are no barriers
• The barriers must be at least 6-feet tall
• Diners must wear masks at all times except when they are eating and drinking
• Table tops must be clear of all items --- including dishes and condiments -- before customers are seated
• Restaurant bars are to remain closed
Jeffrey Phillips, general manager at Mi Corazon in Silver Lake, said his restaurant’s dining area could reopen “within an hour,” once the guidelines come through. "The most important thing is the safety of our customers, the safety of our staff," he said.
But other restaurants may take longer, as they adapt - yet again - to a new situation that the pandemic has thrust upon them.
"We want to have a plan," Montaño said. "You have to redo the reservation system. it’s like reopening a restaurant."
Plus, regulations may require new materials - and everyone will be trying to buy those materials all at the same time, noted Eric Funk, the manager at Hinterhof vegan beer garden in Highland Park.
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"It can be difficult to get a lot of these supplies because everybody wants them," Funk said.
Vic Parrino, owner of Colombo's Italian Steakhouse & Jazz Club in Eagle Rock, said his restaurant is already waiting for plexiglass dividers - at a time when many other restaurants are getting them as well.
Ironically, this comes after these restaurants already managed to adapt to not having having inside dining. The weekend right after dine-in service was shut down, Otoño, for instance, changed immediately into Otoño Mercat, a Spanish specialty market, Montaño said.
But by and large, the restaurant owners and managers we talked to said they were eagerly looking forward to seating customers again.
“We are definitely at our wit’s end that we can keep going like this,” Phillips said. “We’ve had a couple of employees working for free. We would like to get back to working.”
Funk agreed, noting that the pandemic cut his business down to 15 or 20 percent of what it used to have.
"We’re very exciting about reopening," Funk said. "Very excited."