The process of reopening the local economy amid the coronavirus moved slightly forward Tuesday, with Los Angeles County clearing the way for breweries and wineries without in-house kitchens to offer outdoor service in partnership with a third-party food provider.
The reopening comes with restrictions similar to those in effect for restaurants, most notably the requirement that alcohol be purchased in the same transaction as "bona fide meals."
But the county added one more notable restriction, requiring customers to make "a prior reservation for a table at least one day in advance" to be seated at a brewery or winery. According to the health order, the advance-reservation mandate was included "in order to ensure there is no gathering and sufficient area for physical distancing of 6 feet or more.'' All customers must be seated at a table to be served.
Operating hours for the breweries and wineries are limited to 11:30 a.m. and midnight.
Owners of Southland breweries that don't operate their own kitchens lobbied hard for the right to reopen, provided they partner with a catering company or food truck to offer meals. They contended it was unfair to treat them differently from breweries that serve their own food, insisting their operations could be operated just as safely.
Health officials appeared reticent to allow the breweries to open, since they are primarily alcohol operations, but a divided county Board of Supervisors last week approved a motion by Supervisor Janice Hahn allowing breweries and wineries to reopen. Hahn's motion included an advance reservation requirement, but did not specify how long in advance reservations would need to be made.
The apparent opposition of health officials to the brewery openings is made clear in the guidance released Tuesday authorizing their operation, with the first sentence stating, "This order is directed solely by the Board of Supervisors."
The county Department of Public Health's daily news release providing updated COVID-19 case numbers also makes no mention of the brewery openings, although it recaps the recent reopenings of nail salons, card rooms and outdoor playgrounds, and reminding that indoor shopping malls will be allowed to reopen Wednesday at 25% capacity.
Bars across the county remain closed, except in Long Beach, which this week allowed them to reopen with outdoor operations if they partner with a third-party food provider and link all alcohol sales to food purchases. Long Beach has its own health department separate from the county.
The county on Tuesday announced another 30 coronavirus-related deaths, while health officials in Pasadena announced two more fatalities and Long Beach added one more. The new deaths lifted the countywide total since the pandemic began to 6,684.
Another 990 cases of the virus were also confirmed by the county, while Pasadena reported 13 and Long Beach 51. The cumulative countywide total of cases stood at 275,920.
Hospitalizations in the county related to the coronavirus were at 685 as of Tuesday, up from 674 on Monday.
"While we have seen significant improvement since the summer, daily case numbers indicate COVID-19 continues to spread across L.A. County at high enough rates to limit the reopening of businesses and schools,'' public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Tuesday. ``If we work together to limit transmission and slow the spread of COVID-19 to 700 or less new cases per day, not only will the county move to a less restrictive tier that allows us to consider additional re-openings, we will save lives."
Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive level of the state's four-tier economic reopening roadmap. Although the county's testing positivity rate qualifies the county to move up to a less restrictive tier, the average number of new cases per 100,000 residents is still too high to permit a change.
While indoor shopping malls will be permitted to reopen Wednesday at 25% capacity, food courts and common areas must remain closed under the county's health order.