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New California restaurant rules are causing confusion in Santa Clara County

Governor Gavin Newsom threw a lifeline on struggling restaurateurs on Tuesday when he announced that restaurants in certain districts could be open for dinner.

For Angelo Heropoulos, the Bay Area restaurant manager who owns the Farm Ranch Farm in Saratoga and San Jose, the news won’t make a difference. After the sale of the popular Greek chain Grandpa! Three years ago, Heropoulos was looking forward to opening My Place, a tapas restaurant in Saratoga. But that was before the COVID 19 pandemic.

Not only are his plans for opening a new restaurant in the Bay Area put on hold, his existing restaurants are struggling to survive after nearly eight weeks of quarantine.

“The most difficult thing is the uncertainty and only the lack of direction,”

; said Heropoulos. “Not because nobody tries, but because it is such a moving target every day.”

According to Newsom’s new guidelines, counties can set stricter rules for reopening companies if they meet certain tests, healthcare capabilities, contact tracking, and other government indicators. If approved, the districts can move on to the second of four phases of the economy reopening, which now includes restaurants, shopping centers, and open-air museums, among others.

“This would allow customers to return to those areas where conditions allow,” Newsom said during his briefing.

But even for the districts that are allowed to reopen restaurants, dining in restaurants won’t be the same.

Diners should be tested for COVID-19 symptoms according to the guidelines and asked to use hand sanitizers and face masks. Guests not only wait one meter apart, but also wait in their cars before taking a seat. Restaurants must offer one-way menus, reusable dishes and physical barriers.

In Santa Clara County and the Bay Area, officials have acted more cautiously, including the retail shutdown and related manufacturing and logistics that Newsom was allowed to reopen last week. However, Newsom helps local health authorities decide when a reopening is best.

As of Tuesday, only the counties of Butte and El Dorado met the criteria for dining in restaurants again.

And it seems Santa Clara County isn’t on the list yet.

“As far as we know, our epidemic is neither increasing nor decreasing,” said Dr. Sara Cody, district health officer, told the board Tuesday. “It’s just about staying stable, which means that if we pull out, we’ll see a surge.”

Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer, announced on April 29 that the bay area would be changed. Photo by Katie Lauer.

On Tuesday, Santa Clara County reported 2,364 confirmed coronavirus cases and 129 deaths, a modest increase in cases and no change in the number of deaths from the previous day.

At the urging of supervisor Susan Ellenberg if the county was ready to make changes, Newsom announced Tuesday that Cody was holding on. “We’re not there yet,” she said.

The new guidelines

Dine-in restaurants have to create workplace-specific plans, training and employee reviews, as well as frequent cleaning and disinfection. The preparation of food at the table, bars, entertainment, buffets and vending machines are prohibited.

The state also requires physical separation through partitions, with priority given to outdoor seating and the number of people per table. Facial wear for employees is highly recommended. However, they are necessary if the employees are in close contact with the customer or work in areas in which the distance cannot be maintained, e.g. B. in the kitchen.

Ahead of the announcement, the California Restaurant Association issued its own recommendations to allow dinner, adding that it was guided by government coalitions of local health officials and environmental health directors.

Jot Condie, president and CEO of the association, said restaurants are in critical survival after nearly two months of closure.

“Every day that passes without opening increases the risk of permanent closure,” said Condie in a statement. “Today’s announcement gives us more clarity about what a reopening looks like. We are grateful to the governor for recognizing the importance of local government for reopening restaurants in thousands of neighborhoods across California. “

According to Nate LeBlanc, business development manager of the San Jose Downtown Association, downtown San Jose businesses are increasingly confused by the district’s stricter health regulations.

To reopen small businesses, San Jose officials have proposed San Jose Al Fresco a plan that allows restaurants, gyms, salons, and other small businesses to do business in empty parking lots, alleys, and outdoor streets.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 70% of California’s restaurant employees have been laid off or on leave since the virus spread and subsequent health contracts, while the San Jose Downtown Association estimates that all but approximately 6% of the 1,628 downtown shops have closed to have .

LeBlanc said local orders are rightly taking a careful, scientific approach, but looks forward to reopening the restaurants.

“There is a feeling that we cannot stay forever and we need to discuss how to get out safely,” said LeBlanc. “Restaurants are one of those things that make us feel normal and healthy.”

Different orders create confusion

Joe Simitian, supervisor of the Santa Clara district, warned that different state and local measures cause confusion among residents. Surveys show that most Californians support home stay orders, but small business owners struggle to survive every day – especially if the orders are extended while large retailers remain open.

“Feelings are facts,” said Simitian, who represents the western part of the county, including Saratoga. “If people think that way – which means that they are skeptical of the advice they receive or the orders given – the fact that they are objectively wrong is all well and good. But the fact that people have a certain one Feeling and reacting to these feelings has ramifications that we have to adjust to. “

When unveiling the changes, Newsom said more than 70% of the California economy is now open, but urged people to continue protecting the health of vulnerable seniors.

“That’s why it’s so basic to practice, not just preach what is in these guidelines,” Newsom said. “It’s a way of saying this: we’re bringing these things out, and now we’re asking you to do more than you did.”

Heropoulos is working to install custom partitions and limited seating in its restaurants when the county reopens. However, he says officials should consult the restaurant industry to inquire about best practices for restaurant spacing and disinfection.

“We have already tried to be one step ahead of the curve,” said Heropoulos. “People have created new habits. COVID made people do it. “

Contact Eduardo Cuevas at [email protected] or follow @eduardomcuevas on twitter.

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