Desert Sun: Coronavirus: Reopening plan has big changes for California restaurants

By: Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press

Published 10:19 p.m. PT May 6, 2020

California restaurants have drafted a plan to allow the industry to reopen for sit-down dining with an array of safeguards while avoiding possible requirements imposed in other states that customers have their temperature taken or the number of tables be dramatically limited.

The recommendations, obtained by The Associated Press, are to be submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. They envision a changed world within dining rooms, as an industry built on face-to-face contact and crowded tables looks for ways to safely conduct business and avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Only family members or people who live together would sit at the same table. Buffets, salad bars and shared bread baskets would be out. Salt and pepper shakers could be replaced by bottles of hand sanitizer. And meals could arrive from food servers sheathed in face masks.

Restaurant dining rooms were shuttered in California in March as part of broad orders to deter spread of the virus, though takeout and delivery remained. The move devastated the industry and sent droves into unemployment lines in a state with an internationally known food culture.

The recommendations drafted by the California Restaurant Association, in partnership with the California Conference of Local Health Officers and the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health, will give Newsom a potential framework for reopening dining rooms as he begins to ease lockdown orders this week for retail shops, bookstores, florists and sporting goods businesses.

The association wants Newsom to set only broad guidelines in four areas — employee health, social distancing, public education and improved sanitation and disinfection.

Cities and counties would be left to determine the rules within each category, because what makes sense in San Diego might not in Eureka or Bakersfield.