San Diego County gets the OK from state to resume dining-in at restaurants

Preparations are underway to reopen dine-in service at the Beach House Grill at Belmont Park in Mission Beach.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Resumption of dining and retail shopping can go into effect Thursday, after businesses file required paperwork


San Diego County received word Wednesday night that its request to allow dining at restaurants and in-store shopping was approved, setting the stage for a rapid reopening, although with social distancing restrictions.

The approval comes a day after San Diego County supervisors gave the go-ahead for the county to accelerate its progression in Stage 2 of reopening, which would allow retail shopping and restaurants to cater to in-person patrons while abiding by strict guidelines to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Actual reopening of restaurants and shops cannot begin, though, until businesses fill out the county’s Safe Reopening Plan form and post it publicly, county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a tweet Wednesday night. After that, businesses could resume operations as soon as Thursday.

The order from the California Department of Public Health stated that San Diego and a number of other counties can now “move more quickly through Stage 2 opening sectors once state guidance is posted for that sector.”

A spokesman for the San Diego County chapter of the California Restaurant Association said Wednesday that he believes such guidance has already been issued and the resumption of dining should take place immediately.

“Our interpretation is that it is effective immediately,” said Chris Duggan, of the California Restaurant Association.

The county Department of Environmental Health had previously notified restaurant operators of what steps they will be required to take before reopening. Among the measures are: conducting thermal or temperature scans of employees daily, spacing all tables 6 feet apart or, if unmovable, installing a barrier between tables; requiring diners to wear facial coverings when not seated at their table; and disinfecting restrooms and “high contact touch points” frequently. Tableside food preparation and self-serve buffets and salad bars are prohibited.

The Crest Cafe in Hillcrest said Thursday morning it was already preparing to greet its first diners and had filled out the required paperwork.

The county was eligible to advance further into Stage 2 of California’s Resiliency Roadmap because it hit several of the revised reopening criteria laid out by the governor including experiencing a stabilization of new COVID-19 cases and having appropriate testing and hospital capacity. For example, the new rules require counties to have no more than 8 percent of tests conducted coming back positive, a threshold San Diego County is meeting with a rolling two-week average of positive tests under 5 percent.