What to expect from LA’s Yellow Level restaurants and bars
Los Angeles County restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries and distilleries can reopen on Thursday under California Yellow Level guidelines, the least restrictive category in the state’s color-coded reopening plan. For some owners and operators, this means the first return to business in months.
The move allows bars that don’t serve food to reopen indoors for the first time since June 2020, and if all guests show proof of a negative result from a COVID test or full vaccination, that figure can drop from 25 percent of capacity, or 100 people, to 37.5 percent.
Just like in the orange level, the yellow level still offers restaurants the opportunity to increase indoor capacity from 50% to 75% currently with proof of negative test results or guest vaccination, and it offers wineries, breweries and distilleries the same option for the first time.
The new LA County Public Health Order, released Wednesday, also changes table spacing requirements at restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries. Previously mandated eight feet apart between parties, tables below the yellow level can be spaced six feet apart.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for almost a year,” said Tyler Bell, co-owner of Gold Line Bar in Highland Park. The bar does not serve food, so the Gold Line has remained mostly closed throughout the pandemic. With the yellow level crossing, Bell says the bar could reopen indoors as early as this weekend. Live entertainment is still banned indoors, so Gold Line won’t see the return of its live DJ sets just yet, but the bar is home to a 10,000-record vinyl collection, and bartenders will be able to play from these albums while in service.
“It’s very exciting because that’s all we’ve missed in COVID,” Bell said. “It’s not an algorithm on Spotify. It is not a poorly made drink at home. This is not a bad set of headphones. That’s all COVID has kind of taken away from us, and we can’t wait to get back as safe as possible. We will go to step.
For Grant Smillie, co-owner and executive director of LA’s Botanical Hospitality Group, the option of increased capacity is welcome, although the challenge of implementing it is not.
“If someone says, ‘I left my immunization card at home,’ do we cancel your whole party? Smillie asked. “What the app looks like, from a compliance standpoint, if you had 75[%]? Are you going to their tables and asking them to produce proof while they are in your dining room? It would be just ridiculous.
Botanical Hospitality Group operates West Hollywood’s Strings of Life Cafe and LP Rooftop Bar, both of which have been operating with alfresco dining for months. Their full-service restaurant, EP, sits one floor below LP and has been closed for most of the pandemic, during which the team has planned a complete rebranding: When EP reopens on Monday, the old one Pan-Asian concept will have shifted to an eclectic modern American menu with a whole new culinary focus, chef, furniture, design and paint job.
The restaurant group waited until LA’s indoor dining capacities could increase by at least 50%, then began renovating the space (the new menu has been in development since 2020). As part of the yellow tier, they plan to reopen EP with at least 50% capacity, and potentially expand it to 75%, which could help offset a year of financial losses.
“Any restaurant that made a profit during that time is a unicorn, to me, or it had a really robust take-out menu,” Smillie said. “So we’ll probably look to do it [75%] so we certainly feel like we can accommodate the guests.
The yellow upgrade allows a number of other sectors to increase their indoor capacity as well, including gymnasiums, amusement parks, hotels, museums and indoor playgrounds.
This week, California recorded the lowest COVID-19 hospitalization rate since the start of the pandemic. If hospitalization rates remain low and stable and vaccines remain plentiful, Governor Newsom’s recovery phase may move beyond the color-coded system for a statewide reopening scheduled for June 15. .
Yet officials insist on vigilance.
“Although transmission is low here, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, worrying variants are circulating and widespread transmission is still occurring in other parts of the world,” said on Tuesday Barbara Ferrer, director of health at the county. “We know how to lower our prices; now we need to keep them low by getting vaccinated and continuing to follow the advice. Our gains are strengthened as more people are vaccinated. “