Restaurants surrounding Valley College contemplate the decision to serve customers indoors amid the loosened COVID-19 restrictions.
By Cassandra Nava, Online Editor
The Kluckin Chicken restaurant's cashier Aren (17) checks an order list on March 20, 2021. (Photo by Margarita Garushyan/The Valley Star)
Restaurants in Los Angeles county have been permitted to offer indoor dining since March 15, but local business owners are still weighing their options.
Indoor dining has not been allowed in the county since last June, when restaurants were given the green light to reopen only 12 days before a second closure. The Department of Public Health stated that the recent decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations allowed the county to move on from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier. This change allowed restaurants to operate indoors at 25 percent capacity or 100 people (whichever is fewer). The decision came with other conditions such as a minimum of eight feet distance between tables, an updated ventilation system and enforced mask wearing with a mandatory use of face shields for employees.
The Kluckin Chicken, a Nashville-style chicken restaurant across the street from Valley College on Burbank Boulevard, opened in 2018. Since last March, they stopped the use of indoor dining as well as their limited space allotted for outdoor dining.
“Depending on our square feet, some people can eat inside,” said The Kluckin Chicken employee Mike, who preferred not to share his last name.
Despite the reopening of indoor dining in some restaurants, the county’s health department has stressed the dangers that come with these new freedoms.
According to the health department’s restaurant protocol, “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health encourages restaurants to continue to prioritize outdoor dining, pickup, and delivery services for the safety of workers and patrons as these present lower risks of COVID-19 transmission when compared to indoor dining.”
Another restaurant neighboring Valley is Grandma's Thai Kitchen. The tables in the dining area — last used by customers over a year ago — were pushed together to make a desk where employees could sit for extra work space. Employee Mod Sang stated that the restaurant is not ready to resume indoor dining, and will continue to operate for takeout and delivery only.
USA Donuts and Croissants, a small café across from campus, used to have tables inside for students and customers, but has yet to return indoors. Employee Richard Taint said that once the capacity for indoor dining increases, they will move some tables back inside. Until then, customers can take advantage of their outdoor seating, which has been set up prior to the pandemic.
If restaurants decide to accommodate indoor dining, they must follow the county’s guidelines and enforce the rule of seating only one household per table (with a limit of six people). Outdoor dining is still allowed, and can seat a maximum of six people from three separate households at one table.
The CDC continues to stress that respiratory droplets are the main reason people become infected. This is especially true in enclosed spaces, where airborne transmission can occur in an area that is not well ventilated which is why indoor dining is categorized as a “higher risk” option for people.
“The daily reports of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the county remain high as does the risk of community transmission,” states the county’s department of public health. “Nothing in this protocol obligates an establishment to reopen for on-site indoor or outdoor services.”