San Diego Officially Returns To California's Red Tier | Limited Indoor Operations Can Resume At Restaurants, Movie Theaters, Museums, Gyms, Churches & More

March 16, 2021

San Diego County has officially entered California's red tier of COVID-19 restrictions, meaning restaurants are permitted to have indoor dining resume at reduced capacity, and limited indoor operations are allowed at gyms, movie theaters, museums, places of worship, and more.

San Diego County has been in California's most-stringent purple tier of COVID-19 restrictions since November 14, 2020, but as of today, San Diego and 12 other counties have been moved from into the less-restrictive red tier. This comes exactly a year to the day from when San Diego County first announced sweeping stay-at-home orders.  

Beginning at 12:01am on Wednesday, March 17, the following changes will take place throughout San Diego County:
  • Restaurants (and bars, breweries and wineries that serve food) can open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Restaurants must continue to require patrons to order food with alcoholic beverages. Last seating can go as late as 10pm with a requirement that the establishment closes by 11pm;
  • Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries that do not serve food can open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. There must be a 90 minute time limit per table, reservations being encouraged, all customers must remain seated unless using the rest room, and last call for onsite alcohol beverage service must be 8pm (to-go sales can continue as per normal hours). Bars that do not serve food are still not permitted to open for onsite operations; 
  • Retail can open indoors at 50% capacity;
  • Malls can open indoors at 50% capacity and limited food courts;
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can open indoors at 25% capacity;
  • Places of worship can open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer;
  • Movie theaters can open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer;
  • Hotels can open with modifications, plus fitness centers can open at 10% capacity;
  • Gyms can open indoors at 10% capacity;
  • Family entertainment centers can open outdoor only, like mini golf, batting cages and go-kart racing;
  • Cardrooms can open outdoor only;
  • Non-essential offices can remote work only;
  • Schools can reopen for in-person instruction after two weeks out of the purple tier;
  • Professional sports can have live audiences at 20% capacity with restrictions starting April 1;
  • Theme parks can reopen with 15% capacity and restrictions starting April 1.
Recently, California officials announced modifications to the state's reopening plan that would allow outdoor venues and theme parks to reopen with safety modifications and limited capacity as early as April 1. Outdoor sports venues in counties in the red tier, like San Diego's Petco Park, are permitted to host fans at live games at 20% capacity starting April 1. Concessions will be required to be primarily in-seat sales. The capacity limit will rise to 33% for counties in the orange tier and 67% for those in the yellow. 

Live performances will also be allowed to resume with reduced attendance at outdoor venues. Amusement parks, like Belmont Park, Legoland, and SeaWorld, will also be allowed to reopen at 15% capacity with certain restrictions on ride capacity. For amusement parks, the attendance cap rises to 25% once a county is moved to the orange tier and 35% upon reaching the most lenient yellow tier. Attendance at theme parks, sporting events and concerts will be limited to California residents, and there will be additional prohibitions on indoor dining and limits on indoor rides at amusement parks.  

Last weekend, the California Department of Public Health removed the requirement that breweries, wineries and distilleries can only open if they provide food. Bars that do not serve food must remain closed until San Diego County gets in the orange tier.

The County must remain in the red tier and post two consecutive weeks of data in the in the orange tier before moving to the less restrictive level which would ease more restrictions. While two of the three metrics for moving to a less restrictive tier qualify San Diego County for the orange tier, the state assigns counties to the most restrictive tier. When the state administers 4 million doses of the vaccine to California's hardest-hit communities, tier assignments will be revised once again.

This is a developing story. We will update this post as we learn more.