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Contra Costa County Reopening Order Leaves Restaurants Behind

Indoor shopping is allowed, but restaurants must stick to takeout

COVID-19 General Store
Tutu’s, a restaurant in the Contra Costa County city of Lafayette, can allow shoppers inside to purchase goods — but sitting down to eat is still against the law.
Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Sit-down dining is back for some cities in the Bay Area, but if you’re in Contra Costa County, you’re still stuck with takeout. This, even though the county’s health department announced Tuesday that many of the region’s businesses would be allowed to reopen as of Wednesday, June 3.

Six Bay Area counties were closed during the area’s initial shelter-in-place order on March 16, a move intended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Of those, only Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties remain without a plan to resume seated dining. Santa Clara County announced Monday that outdoor dining could begin on Friday, June 5, Santa Cruz County was allowed to resume indoor and outdoor dining as of May 30, and San Francisco expects to open outdoor dining on June 15.

As part of Contra Costa County’s newest health order — which was released on Tuesday night and kicked in Wednesday morning — housekeeping, car washes, plumbing and pet grooming are now allowed, as are “small outdoor social gatherings” and indoor retail shopping (at any store, not just those deemed essential).

Conspicuously absent from the reopening list was the county’s restaurant industry. According to the order, which you can read in full here, “Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food” must remain “delivery or carry out” only. Any “entities that provide food services ... shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site,” the order reads.

Though “outdoor businesses” and “outdoor activities” may resume under this new order, the order specifically calls out restaurants for exclusion, saying: “for clarity, ‘Outdoor Businesses’ do not include outdoor restaurants, cafes, or bars.” Any other businesses “that promote large, coordinated, and prolonged gatherings” must also remain closed.

Officials have yet to explain why dining in was left off the list of reopenings, and an email sent by Eater SF to Contra Costa Health Services for more clarification has yet to be returned. According to NBC Bay Area, the county says that they “will consult with state officials about reopening swimming pools and outdoor dining,” which seems to suggest that they’re viewed as carrying the same level of risk.

Whatever the case, all the new activities allowed by today’s order should be wrapped up by 8 p.m., as at an emergency meeting of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the county was placed under curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. “until further notice,” the East Bay Times reports. Unlike the pandemic-related shutdown, this order was made after demonstrations in downtown Walnut Creek that closed an area freeway and was punctuated by the police use of tear gas to disperse protesters rallying against the alleged slaying of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.