LA County is allowing restaurants to open outdoor dining today—but without televisions

After a two-month shutdown due to surging COVID-19 cases, patio dining returned to Los Angeles County today but with a new restriction forcing restaurants to turn off or remove all televisions from customer seating areas—a clear effort to prevent gatherings of sports fans.

The county’s revised Health Officer Order also reinstates previous restrictions on outdoor dining, requiring servers to wear masks and face shields, limiting restaurants to 50% of patio capacity, limiting tables to no more than six people and requiring tables to be at least 8 feet apart.

But the order also states: “Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off.”

Long Beach health officials allowed restaurants to open outdoor dining effective Tuesday, but there is nothing in the city health order prohibiting the use of televisions. Since Long Beach has its own Health Department, the city is allowed to craft its own rules—as long as they are at least as strict as what the state requires.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer earlier this week noted concerns about the upcoming Super Bowl leading to gatherings of sports fans, and she noted earlier issued with people gathering at private parties and restaurants to watch Dodger World Series and Lakers NBA Championship games.

“We know that Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and we can’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Ferrer said. “It will be tragic if the Super Bowl becomes a super-spreader of coronavirus.”

The order limits table seating to six people, and “all people seated at a table should be members of the same household.”

The order encourages, but does not mandate, seating to be done by advance reservation. It urges restaurants to notify customers “to call in advance to confirm outdoor seating/serving capacity, where possible.”

Restaurants also must collect contact information from customers in case there’s a future need to reach out in contact-tracing efforts.

The new Health Officer Order also lifts the previous requirement that non-essential retail businesses be closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.    On Monday, following the lifting of the state’s regional stay-at-home order, the county and city of Long Beach immediately cleared personal-service businesses such as barber shops and nail salons to reopen, albeit with strict infection-control requirements.

Daily COVID-19 infection numbers have been trending downward over the past two weeks, following a surge that saw the county regularly reporting well over 10,000 cases.

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