LA County’s New Reopening Rules for Businesses
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LA County’s New Reopening Rules for Businesses

On March 15, 2021, Los Angeles County officially entered into the state’s Red Tier, permitting restaurants to offer limited capacity indoor dining, and permitting gyms, museums and galleries to open some indoor operations. The County issued several reopening protocols laying out the rules for businesses with the current reopening.

Dining

The County’s Department of Public Health issued a revised Public Health Order for Dining Protocols (the “Order”) with new protocols for indoor dining, outdoor dining and worker safety in light of the reopening.

Indoor Dining

With regard to indoor dining, restaurants are permitted to reopen at 25% occupancy, based on applicable Building or Fire Code occupancy limits, or 100 people, whichever is less. Only members of the same household can be seated together at the same table in the indoor dining area. Restaurants are required to verbally inform customers prior to seating that everyone sharing a table indoors must be from the same household. Only restaurants, not wineries or taprooms, are permitted to offer indoor dining. Bars that do not serve food are still closed for indoor or outdoor service.  Tables must be spaced eight feet apart.

Additionally, restaurants are prohibited from hosting receptions, banquets and other coordinated events indoors. Restaurants offering indoor dining are not permitted to offer live entertainment or bar service.

A facility’s indoor dining area must allow for the free flow of outdoor air through the entire space to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission for customers and staff. This includes leaving doors and windows open where possible.

Outdoor Dining

Outdoor dining restrictions have been slightly loosened in that members from up to three different households may now be seated together at the same table in the outdoor dining area. Maximum capacity at one table is six people. 

Outdoor structures that do not meet the State’s criteria for an outdoor setting are classified as indoor settings, and any customers within them will be counted and included as part of the establishment’s 25% total indoor occupancy limit.

Tracking Capacity

The Order requires restaurants to “strictly and continuously meter the entry and exit of customers at all entrances in order to track occupancy to ensure compliance with capacity limits.” The Order warns that “establishments that are insufficiently or not metering or appear to be over-capacity, may, at the discretion of the public health inspector, be temporarily closed until these issues are rectified as determined by the onsite public health inspector.”

Mask Recommendations

The Order also recommends that restaurant operators that open for indoor dining provide employees with masks that are more effective at protecting against small aerosol transmission, including but not limited to fit-tested N95 masks, KN95 masks and double-masks, given the higher risk of COVID-19 spread indoors in a restaurant setting.

Ventilation Requirements

Restaurants are required to have their HVAC system inspected by an HVAC Specialist within 30 days of reopening for indoor dining to confirm that the system is in good, working order. Restaurants must ensure that ventilation has been increased to the maximum extent possible.

Hotel, Lodging and Short-Term Rentals

The County updated its Reopening Protocol for Hotels to permit hotels to offer additional services and update requirements for ventilation and shuttle services. Hotel guests and staff must wear masks at all times in common areas.

Hotel Services

Hotel-offered spa services, including massage, facials, waxing and nail salons, may be open for indoor services at 50% indoor occupancy. Gym/fitness establishments within a hotel may reopen at 10% occupancy. Indoor pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms must remain closed. Indoor playgrounds must remain closed. Outdoor playgrounds may be open.

Quarantining Guests

Hotels are required to ask guests and visitors COVID screening questions. Guests that answer affirmatively may be re-booked into rooms in a more remote area of the hotel pre-selected for use by such guests. Hotels are encouraged to offer additional services to any guests who are isolating or quarantining, such as daily wellness checks by phone, room service and additional concierge assistance to allow the guest to stay in their room.

Ventilation

Hotels must ensure that ventilation has been increased to the maximum extent possible. Hotels are asked to “consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners, upgrading the building’s air filters to the highest efficiency possible, and making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in all offices, guest rooms and other spaces.”

Shuttle Service

Hotels may offer van or shuttle service, but if doing so, must use a higher-capacity vehicle as much as possible to allow for six (6) feet of physical distancing as much as is feasible. Passengers using a hotel shuttle service must use face masks and the driver should leave windows open to increase the ventilation during the ride.

Grocery Stores

Stand-alone grocery stores must limit their occupancy to ensure that all employees and customers are able to maintain at least 6-feet of physical distance from each other at all times. Further, stand-alone grocery stores are strongly encouraged to limit their occupancy to 50% of maximum indoor occupancy based on applicable building and fire code until at least April 15, 2021, to enable sufficient time for as many grocery store workers as possible to receive a vaccine.

Farmer’s Markets

Under the revised Protocol for Farmer’s Markets, outdoor operations are permitted at 50% capacity. However, on April 15, 2021, that limit may be increased. The Protocol states: “Certified Farmer’s Markets are encouraged to limit their occupancy to 50% of the outdoor Market capacity until at least April 15, 2021 to enable as many workers to be vaccinated as possible.”

Shopping Centers/Malls

The Reopening Protocol for Shopping Centers permits malls to reopen food courts and increase indoor occupancy to 50%.

Mall Food Courts

Food courts may reopen at 25% max occupancy based on applicable building or fire code occupancy. Food purchased in the food court may only be consumed at a designated indoor or outdoor dining area. Food court tables must be spaced at least 8 feet apart.

  • Pooja S. Nair
    Partner

    Pooja S. Nair is a business litigator and problem solver with a focus on the food and beverage sector. She advises food and beverage clients, startups and other businesses on a comprehensive range of issues, including employment ...

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