Tuesday’s news that Riverside County restaurants will be able to open dining rooms to customers at 25% capacity was met with cautious optimism.

“I guess this step forward is a move in the right direction, but people still need to be diligent in bring back our economy,” said Janae Solis, owner of Dorry’s Diner in the City of Riverside. “There’s still a mile.”

She is among the business owners who have been staying afloat amid the novel coronavirus pandemic with outdoor dining. Many don’t expect to fold up their umbrellas any time soon.

California first shut down bars and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery in mid-March in an effort to halt the pandemic.

It eased up on those requirements on Memorial Day weekend, allowing restaurants to have indoor dining with social distancing. But a surge in COVID-19 cases caused Gov. Gavin Newsom to shut dining rooms and bars, which had reopened in June, by Fourth of July weekend.

At that time, more cities began allowing full-service restaurants to expand outdoor service. Dining tables appeared on sidewalks and in parking lots, along with canopies and misters.

The state recently reorganized its reopening framework, setting up color-coded tiers. On Tuesday, Riverside County’s public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser, said the county is moving from purple, the most restrictive tier, to red, which allows more indoor activity.

“That would mean a lot,” said Robert Ruiz, owner of Placita on University Avenue in Riverside. “We have a patio, but a lot of people want to come inside.”

He said his business dropped 60-70% during the recent heatwave.

Reduced dining capacity makes it difficult for restaurants to break even, and socially-distanced patios can only make up so much of the 75% seating capacity restaurants won’t be able to reclaim.



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