Updated 4:23 p.m.
Sacramento County will not be lifting its stay-at-home order when it expires at the end of this week, but has state approval to allow for restaurants to open for dine-in service with modifications as soon as this weekend, county health officials revealed Tuesday.
Details on the state-required modifications include provisions such as physical-distancing for customers and the requirement that all employees wear face masks.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said restaurants could be opening with things like more outdoor seating to help keep customers safely distanced.
“It’s not a question of if we reopen, it’s not a question of when — because it’s going to be very very soon — it’s a question of how we reopen,” Steinberg said. “Our rates of infection and rates of hospitalization remain relatively flat, so we’re going to have the permission to open up restaurants for in dining, some offices, the question now is how we go about it.”
“If we don’t follow the rules and start doing large gatherings without the protective equipment and there’s a spike in infections, that will then directly affect the ability of someone on the other side of town to get back to business.”
Businesses in Midtown and downtown have begun talking about a program called Farm to Fork Al-Fresco, which they will start implementing in the coming weeks to allow for restaurants to offer outdoor seating at appropriate distances. They’ll be starting with businesses near streets already closed during the Midtown Farmers Market, as they say the area is already primed to be converted to outdoor seating.
“What we’re looking at are key areas of restaurant clusters that we can look at expanding their outdoor dining into sidewalk and street areas. So some of those areas might be similar to where the Midtown Farmers Market is held, looking at maybe a permanent closure of that street for a couple months,” said Emily Baime Michaels, Director of the Midtown Association. These restaurants would include LowBrau Bierhall, Azul, Nekter Juice Bar, Pete’s Coffee and Pizzeria Urbano.
Michael Hargis, owner of LowBrau, said his business was looking forward to opening for outdoor dining in the next few weeks.
“We could get 3 months on the street and so we’re looking at an architectural pod with a bar and some seating and really create an amenity that’s not just for the neighborhood but potentially be able to work with the Farmers Market as an outdoor cafe and we could serve beer and mimosas,” he said.
While the order — set to expire midnight Friday — will stay in place, Sacramento County health officials confirmed in a press release the county has been approved for the state's expanded Stage 2 reopening. This would allow for dine-in restaurants, malls and schools to return with modifications. Those changes can start after the county updates its existing stay-at-home order, which will occur by Friday, officials say.
The county's plan will have some restrictions not included in the state's Stage 2 plan:
- Religious services and special ceremonies, such as graduations, can only be drive-through
- Outdoor gatherings, such as weddings, funerals and family gatherings can have a maximum of 10 people with strict social distancing
Restaurant owner Randall Selland of Selland’s Market, Ella and OBO’ said he would like to reopen for dine-in service, but that opening with restrictions wouldn’t fit with his restaurants’ character. He estimated his restaurant group has lost around 70 to 80% of their revenue, though they are continuing to do take-out.
“It’s going to take a while," Selland said. "Dining is an experience, and therefore to just reopen those restaurants at 50% capacity or distance or face shields, what’s the guest experience going to be, is it worth it, are they going to enjoy themselves?” He asked.
“I think the most important thing is we need to alleviate the fear people have about going out and interacting with people.”
As of Tuesday morning, 23 California counties had moved into what Gov. Gavin Newsom has called the expanded Stage 2 of the state's reopening. On Monday the state relaxed criteria for counties to qualify, including a requirement that counties have no COVID-19 deaths for two weeks, which larger counties such as Sacramento said could be impossible for them to meet. Newsom estimated that 53 of the state's 58 counties could qualify under the new requirements.
In addition to dine-in restaurants, these businesses will also be able to open after meeting state guidelines:
- Small offices may reopen when telework is not possible
- Child care, daycare and family daycare
- Outdoor gyms
- Outdoor museums, art galleries and theaters
- Resumption of full public transportation
- Retail and storefronts with 10 employees or less may re-open
Hair salons, barbershops and nail salons are still anticipated to be some weeks out from reopening. The county anticipates reinstating the stay-at-home order for another three weeks, though the duration is still under discussion according to the County Health Department.
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