California Announces Guidelines For Reopening Restaurants & Eased Restrictions For More Businesses

May 12, 2020

At his daily press briefing this afternoon, California Governor Gavin Newsom laid out plans to allow for the reopening of restaurants throughout the state, although he has not explained when eateries will be permitted to open.

Last week, the California Restaurant Association submitted recommendation to the state's governor on precautionary measures that should be put in place to allow for the state's restaurants to reopen. San Diego bars and restaurant dining rooms have been forced to close since March 17 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and all eateries throughout California later followed suit after Governor Newsom imposed a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19.

A younger Newsom eating at a San Francisco noodle house. 
After detailing increased testing capacity throughout the state, Newsom outlined additional modifications to the California stay-at-home order. Offices can begin to reopen with social distancing. Malls and outlet malls can reopen for pickup only. Car washes, pet grooming, dog walking, land grooming and gardening are being modified statewide, which affords local governments the opportunity to conform or choose to be more restrictive. Outdoor museums will also be permitted to reopen. Newsom stated that at this point, over 70% of the California economy have been allowed to open.

Guidelines for reopening in-room dining at restaurants were also published today, but restaurants are not permitted to open at this time. The document provides guidance for dine-in restaurants, brewpubs, craft distilleries, breweries, bars, pubs, and wineries to make preparations necessary to support a safe and clean environment for workers and customers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has guidance for restaurants and the CDC has additional requirements in their guidance for businesses and employers. California's guidelines for the hospitality industry state as follows:
  • Brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries should remain closed until those establishments are allowed to resume modified or full operation unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal. 
  • Dine-in restaurants, brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries that provide sit-down meals should follow the restaurant guidance below and should continue to encourage takeout and delivery service whenever possible. 
  • Brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries, and wineries that do not provide sit-down meals themselves, but can contract with another vendor to do so, can serve dine-in meals provided both businesses follow the guidance below and alcohol is only sold in the same transaction as a meal. 
  • Venues that are currently authorized to provide off sale beer, wine, and spirits to be consumed off premises and do not offer sit-down, dine-in meals should follow the guidance for retail operations and offer curbside sales only, until local and/or statewide rules allow additional retail activity. 
  • Producers of beer, wine, and spirits should follow the guidance for manufacturing operations. 
  • This guidance is not intended for concert, performance, or entertainment venues. Those types of establishments should remain closed until they are allowed to resume modified or full operation through a specific reopening order or guidance. Establishments that serve full meals must discontinue this type of entertainment until these types of activities are allowed to resume modified or full operation. 
Once permitted to reopen, California eateries are responsible for establishing a written, worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every location, perform a comprehensive risk assessment of all work areas, and designate a person at each establishment to implement the plan. The state also provides guidance for employee retraining, as well as for individual control measures and screening. There are also increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols recommended, physical distancing guidelines, and further considerations for restaurants that will reopen for dine-in service.

Recommended precautionary measures for restaurants reopening include suggested face coverings for staff, temperature and symptom screenings for all workers at beginning of shift, as well as for vendors and contractors, frequent and thorough cleaning of high traffic areas, increased fresh air circulation, installation of portable air purifiers, use of only disposable menus, discontinuing presetting tables, suspending shared food items like condiment bottles, making customers fill takeout containers, discontinuing tableside food preparations, installation of hand sanitizer dispensers, stopping use of any board games or entertainment items like pool tables, prioritizing outdoor seating, and many more. Bar seating is to remain closed. The guidelines also recommend that guests and visitors should be screened for symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and asked to bring and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking. Appropriate signage should also be prominently displayed outlining proper face covering usage and current physical distancing practices in use at all entrances and throughout the property. Licensed restaurants may continue to sell "to-go" alcoholic beverages, prepared drinks, and pre-mixed cocktails provided they are sold and delivered to customers in conjunction with the sale and delivery of a food.

Mayor Faulconer's recent letter to Gov. Newsom
Many sectors, businesses, establishments, and activities are not permitted to operate in the State of California at this time, including personal services such as hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios; hospitality services, such as bars, wineries, tasting rooms and lounges; entertainment venues, such as movie theaters, gaming facilities, and pro sports Indoor museums, kids museums and gallery spaces, zoos, and libraries; community centers, public pools, playgrounds, and picnic areas; religious services and cultural ceremonies; nightclubs; concert venues; live audience sports; festivals; theme parks; and hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism.

It is expected that San Diego County and City may further loosen local restrictions and announce a timeline for reopening restaurants at some point in the coming weeks, although current restrictions for local government variances imposed by the governor are seen as too restrictive to permit San Diego to act independently of the state. Both San Diego's Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey recently spoke out asking California to permit the county to loosen restrictions. This comes as Los Angeles County's Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged at a Board of Supervisors meeting today that Los Angeles County's stay-at-home orders will "with all certainty" be extended through July.

For more information on California's COVID-19 statistics and orders, visit, and review the full California guidelines for restaurants and Cal/OSHA COVID-19 General Checklistfor Dine-in Restaurants.

This is a developing story. As such, this post will be updated as more information becomes available.