What's Open And What Are The Rules?

Published Oct 20, 2020

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California's reopening rollercoaster belongs in a 1980s New Jersey theme park. It's been an iffy ride, and a perilous one.

Los Angeles started to turn the lights on in early May after months of stay-at-home orders, historic unemployment, and a COVID-19 death toll that screamed "racism is a public health issue."

Every time a new set of locations reopened, the process began the same way:

First, your mom said it was OK to go to the park Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was OK to open doors. Then, it was up to you to be careful and hope none of the attractions caught on fire up to L.A. County to say when that could happen based on certain criteria being met.

And this ride hasn't stopped.

Once something's reopened, it can also be shut down again. Many businesses have met that fate.

L.A. County landed on the state's "monitoring list," and we were required to roll back a large set of reopened sectors.

Then we teetered on the brink of another don't-call-it-a-shutdown shutdown as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced his color threat wheel.

Now Newsom has a rainbow of his own, too -- a four-tier, color-coded reopening blueprint.

But how everything opened up in first place is still a little fuzzy.



About a week into May, Los Angeles started to creak open.

By the end of the month we were accelerating at a speed that can best be described as absolutely bananas.

We then entered the unofficial "screw it, it had to happen eventually so let's just hope for the best" phase.

To add to the tumult and confusion, while officials were greenlighting these various locations to reopen, they were also still urging people to stay at home as much as possible. Woof.

"Hey awesome news this great thing is open but don't go to there" (paraphrasing) is a tragically unstable set of directives to hurl at people who haven't left the house in months.

It's safe to say there was a disconnect, and the "stay home" part was lost -- about 1 million people ignored the request during the second weekend of lifted restrictions.

Around this time, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger proposed that July 4 should be the target date to fully or partially reopen retail, restaurants, and malls in the county.

The idea -- which, at the time, seemed wildly fast -- got a less-than-jazzed reception from L.A. County's public health director Barbara Ferrer.

She said that leaders and residents would "have to do a lot of things right so that we can actually get to that date... and we're still going to need to pay a lot of attention to what the data's telling us."

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti had a similar response.

When we talked to Ferrer again about a week later, the tone was different. She said she felt the data supported moving ahead.

And then they did. Quickly. Instead of fingers crossed for a huge wave of reopenings on July 4, it happened at the end of May.

Garcetti said around Memorial Day, "we've never been fully closed," and that people should get comfortable living in a "gray area" between open and closed for a while. He said it was "OK to take a step forward, but ... don't go crazy."

Cut to one month later: 500,000 people hit the bars the day after they reopened. The bars were then shut down again by order of the governor.

Local officials also decided to re-close the beaches over the July 4 holiday weekend after L.A. County set a record (again) for the most coronavirus cases in a single day.

That record has been topped many times since, and Garcetti has publicly said that we opened "too quickly."

And now it's today.

L.A. County has allowed some businesses to resume limited operations (again) -- even as the county failed to advance in the state's reopening rainbow in early October. Ferrer says county officials signed off on the reopeinings after monitoring post-Labor Day case data.

Below is the full rundown of what's still allowed to be open, where you can legally go, and what you're allowed to do when you get there.

First is the timeline, then the rules.

We've also included links to official documentation. There you'll find every additional caveat and specific, written in formal, sometimes confusing language, because that's how it's done.


IMPORTANT: Many reopened sectors have been shut down again. See "Rules & Details" for specifics.

Also, just because the state says it's OK, doesn't mean L.A. County will allow it -- the county can be decide to be more restrictive than what the state allows. Also also, just because something can reopen doesn't mean it has reopened.

This is all to say, you might want to check a website or make a phone call before venturing out. Which -- given the order revisions and thousands of non-compliance calls public health inspectors receive -- you may not want to do in the first place unless it's essential.

May 8: Curbside shopping: florists, bookstores, toys, more (RULES & DETAILS)
May 9: Hiking trails (RULES & DETAILS)
May 9: Golf courses (RULES & DETAILS)
May 13: Manufacturing/logistics businesses (RULES & DETAILS)
May 13: L.A.'s beaches (RULES & DETAILS)
May 13: Tennis, archery, equestrian centers, gardens (RULES & DETAILS)
May 16: Angeles National Forest trails (RULES & DETAILS)
May 16: Descanso Gardens (RULES & DETAILS)
May 19: Pet grooming and training (RULES & DETAILS)
May 19: Car washes (RULES & DETAILS)
May 22: Beach bike paths, parking (RULES & DETAILS)
May 22: Car parades (RULES & DETAILS)
May 25: L.A. River recreation zones (RULES & DETAILS)
May 26: Runyon Canyon (RULES & DETAILS)
May 27: Shopping inside of stores, shopping centers, malls (RULES & DETAILS)
May 27: Houses of worship (RULES & DETAILS)
May 27: Flea markets (RULES & DETAILS)
May 27: Drive-in theaters (RULES & DETAILS)
May 27: Pools at multi-unit residences (RULES & DETAILS)
May 29: Hair salons and barbershops (RULES & DETAILS)
May 29: Restaurant dining rooms (RULES & DETAILS)
May 29: Offices without telework options (RULES & DETAILS)
June 8: Libraries w/ sidewalk service (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Gyms (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Public pools (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Professional sports (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Hotels (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Zoos, aquariums, museums, galleries (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Day camps (RULES & DETAILS)
June 12: Music, film, and TV production (RULES & DETAILS)
June 19: Bars, wineries, brewery tasting rooms (RULES & DETAILS)
June 19: Personal care: nails, tattooing, massage, more (RULES & DETAILS)
June 19: Cardrooms, satellite wagering facilities, racetracks (RULES & DETAILS)
August 5: Youth sports leagues (RULES & DETAILS)
TBD: Movies, mini-golf, arcades, batting cages, bowling (RULES & DETAILS)
TBD: School campuses



The first wave of L.A. County shops were allowed to reopen on May 8 for curbside pick-up only, if they followed new safety rules. There were a lot of them. Florists, toy stores, music stores, bookstores, clothing stores, sporting goods stores, and car dealership showrooms were all part of this group. Some cities, like Long Beach, allowed additional shops/activities.

Doorside pick-up was allowed on May 13, and more businesses, including some manufacturing/logistic companies, were greenlit to reopen if they complied with health department protocols. The next move was curbside pickup at indoor malls on May 22.

In-store shopping was restored (pun intended) statewide on Memorial Day. But the state's go-ahead was just the first step. The county had to say OK, and we had not met the criteria yet. L.A. County Department of Public Health gave the greenlight less than a week later. Shopping inside of stores was approved locally on May 27.

Shops that wanted to reopen had to adopt L.A. County safety protocols and operate at 50% capacity.

Malls and outdoor shopping centers were also approved to reopen. On July 13 Gov. Newsom closed down L.A.'s indoor malls again, citing the spread of COVID-19, and announced that the entire state was moving back into a modified version of the stay-at-home order.

On Sept. 30, indoor malls were approved for a restricted re-reopening. The change went into effect Oct. 7. Retail shops only accessible from inside of a mall could open doors at 25% capacity as long as customers and employees can maintain 6 feet of physical distance. Indoor food courts are still closed for dine-in eating, and common areas are still closed. Restaurants accessible from outside can offer outdoor dining, carry-out, or delivery per restaurant protocols.


Hiking trails operated by L.A. County and the City of L.A. were reopened to the public on May 9. Runyon Canyon and Griffith Observatory remained closed. Runyon Canyon was allowed to reopen on May 26 with "counters" in place to avoid overcrowding and "the trail will only be open for hiking as a one-way loop," the City of L.A. tweeted.

Some Angeles National Forest trails and (while not so much a hike, but certainly a walk) Descanso Gardens reopened, with restrictions, on May 16. Eaton Canyon was reopened, but then closed again because of crowds, and then reopened again with new rules and timed entry.

Here's a starter list of open California campgrounds.


Golf courses operated by L.A. County and the City of L.A. reopened to the public on May 9. They were reservation-only, one person per golf cart, and foam fillers were added to the holes so players wouldn't have to touch the flag. Golf at other recreational facilities were allowed to reopen on May 13.


L.A. County beaches and City of L.A. beaches reopened on May 13 for "active" use, meaning: no biking, no sitting, no sunning, no gathering, no pier access, no boardwalk strolls, and no parking.

Bike paths got some restrictions lifted a few days later, and parking lots run by the county and the city (at Cabrillo beach, Dockweiler State Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, Zuma Beach, and Surfrider Beach) reopened on May 22.

Sunbathing and leisure were reinstated on June 12 (but gathering and group sports were still prohibited).

Two more beach lots opened in Venice on June 24. Other lots followed. Most are now open. L.A. County's Department of Beaches and Harbors keeps a detailed parking map with hours, fees, and open/closed status (also, a list). See their coastal FAQ for more.

Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the county temporarily closed beaches, piers, and beach bike paths from July 3-6. Fireworks displays were also prohibited.


Tennis courts, pickleball courts, shooting ranges, archery ranges, other golf courses, equestrian centers, model airplane areas, community gardens, bike parks, and other recreational facilities were also allowed to reopen -- with limitations -- on May 13.


Pet grooming and training -- shops and mobile services -- were allowed to operate starting May 19. Customers had to drop off and pick up pets outside of the store, or home, if a mobile service.


Car washes were allowed to resume operations on May 19.


Graduation (and other types of) vehicle parades were given the green light on May 22 -- provided an exhaustive set of rules were followed.


Restaurants got guidance from the state on May 12 about how to reopen dining rooms, but it would be a few more weeks until that happened in L.A.

On May 29, the state approved L.A.'s variance application and the county gave the greenlight to reopen -- with restrictions -- provided they followed safety protocols.

Initially, compliance was on the "honor system."

That worked about as well as you might imagine.

On June 15, health officials announced that half of the 2,000 L.A. restaurants they inspected since reopening were not in compliance with new guidelines. Those rules include strict measures to ensure physical distancing.

On June 27, the county said that 3,700 food establishments were recently surveyed and 83% were in violation of coronavirus regulations.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told LAist it appears businesses are not communicating the new rules to staff and patrons. A significant number of employees weren't wearing face coverings, which is a major public health issue both for workers and guests. Lack of social distancing was also a problem.

Residents were urged to report any potentially unsafe conditions to the health department.

In-restaurant dining was shut down again on July 1. Citing the spread of COVID-19 across California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was re-closing indoor operations in multiple business sectors, including restaurants, effective immediately.

On the city level, permits issued through L.A.'s Al Fresco program -- which lets restaurants use public areas like sidewalks, parking lots, and lanes for for outdoor dining -- were extended through 2020. Some officials are trying to make those changes permanant.


Houses of worship were allowed to reopen in L.A. County on May 26, following state guidelines. Under the new rules, they could not exceed 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever was smaller.

On July 13 Gov. Newsom closed them down again in L.A., citing the spread of COVID-19, and announced that the entire state was moving back into a modified version of the stay-at-home order.


While neighboring counties were trimming and snipping, L.A. was still waiting. The county gave hair salons the go-ahead to reopen on May 29 after the state approved L.A.'s variance application (which is, essentially, permission for a county to skip ahead in the reopening process).

On July 13 Gov. Newsom closed them down again in L.A., citing the spread of COVID-19, and announced that the entire state was moving back into a modified version of the stay-at-home order.

On July 20, Newsom announced that clarifications had been made to the state guidance about how barbershops and salons can operate outdoors.

On July 21, L.A. County updated its protocols to allow for some hair salon and barbershop services to resume outdoors.

On September 2, L.A. County announced that hair salons and barbershops could reopen indoor service at 25% capacity.


Drive-in theaters are the place to be. What year is it? Doesn't even matter. Time has no meaning. These were allowed to reopen on May 27.


These reopenings were announced along with the reopening of drive-in theaters.


These were allowed to reopen on May 27. The rules apply to pools, hot tubs, and saunas in a multi-unit residence, or part of a homeowners association.


Offices in "non-critical sectors" were allowed to reopen on May 29, but only when telework was not possible. "So if you can work from home, you still need to work from home," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news briefing.

On July 13 Gov. Newsom closed down offices in "non-critical sectors" again, citing the spread of COVID-19, and announced that the state was moving back into a modified version of the stay-at-home order.


L.A. River Recreation Zones in Elysian Valley and the Sepulveda Basin opened for the 2020 season on May 25. Walking, fishing (with a permit), and birdwatching was OK. Kayaking and other water activity, not OK. The initial announcement slated the recreation zones for opening on May 31.


Libraries in various locations across L.A. County opened on June 8 for contactless drop-off and pick-up. Hours of operation were initially 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and staff was taking calls between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Here's where you can reserve a book. And we have a breakdown of how the process works.


Hooray-ish for Hollywood.

A 22-page reopening plan was sent to the state and county by a Hollywood task force on June 1 (here's that full document). The state returned with a recommendation that music, film, and TV production could resume on June 12, but:

"...subject to approval by county public health officers within the jurisdictions of operations following their review of local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing.

"To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers. Back office staff and management should adhere to Office Workspace guidelines published by the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Industrial Relations, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission."

TWIST! L.A. County Department of Public Health gave the OK for the state's timeline. Resuming local film production has been slow-going, but FilmLA -- the official film office for L.A. City and County -- has a "growing roster" of local areas that are open to it.


This is a fancy way of saying movie theaters and more.

Also inlcuded in this group: bowling alleys, mini-golf courses, batting cages, and arcades. Not included: water parks, amusement parks, ice skating, roller rinks, and laser tag.

California allowed Family Entertainment Centers to reopen on June 12, but L.A. County decided to keep them closed.

Then, on July 1, family entertainment centers were shut down again by the state. Citing the spread of COVID-19 across California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was re-closing indoor operations in multiple business sectors, including this one, effective immediately.

The order was to remain in place for at least three weeks.


State recommendations include a worksite-specific plan, topics for employee training, individual control measures like temperature checks, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, physical distancing guidelines, and extra considerations for communal bathrooms and showers.

L.A. County said gyms could reopen June 12. On July 13 Gov. Newsom closed them down again in L.A., citing the spread of COVID-19, and announced that the entire state was moving back into a modified version of the stay-at-home order.


The county order was lifted on June 12, but just because pools can open doesn't mean they will open.

There are a lot of rules.
There is no Marco Polo.

Pool operators now need to maintain 6 feet of social distancing among swimmers and loungers. Maximum occupancy is cut in half. Lap swimmers might be one person per lane (if not a family group). And some locations could require reservations. Frequent cleaning of "high-touch surfaces" -- like door handles, pool railings, deck chairs, training gear -- is also required.

This guidance applies to:

- campground pools
- club pools
- commercial pools
- health or fitness club pools
- hotel pools
- licensed daycare facility pools
- medical facility pools
- mineral spring pools
- motel pools
- municipal pools
- public school pools
- private school pools
- recreational or mobile home park pools
- resort pools
- special purpose pools
- swim school pools

Hot tubs/jacuzzi/spa pools, water parks, splash pads at amusement parks, water slides, and other rides or water attractions located at a pool are not included in these rule changes, and are still closed.

Residential swimming pools at apartment buildings, bed and breakfasts, condos, and HOAs have their own reopening rules.


Professional sports in L.A. County were allowed to resume training and competition -- without live audiences -- beginning June 12.

Guidance from the state says: "...athletes, coaching staff, medical staff, broadcasting staff and others at sporting facilities or events should abide by COVID-19 protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers ... Back office staff and management should adhere to Office Workspace guidelines ... Retail staff should adhere to Retail guidelines."


These were allowed by the state to open on or after June 12, pending "county health officer approval following their review of local epidemiological data." L.A. County health officials approved the June 12 date.

On July 1 indoor operations at zoos, aquariums, museums, and galleries were shut down again.

Citing the spread of COVID-19 across California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was re-closing indoor operations in multiple business sectors, including this one, effective immediately. The order was to remain in place for at least three weeks.

The Los Angeles Zoo reopened to the public on August 26 with new health procedures in place, limited capacity, and timed ticketed entry. Indoor and high-touch spaces remain closed.


The day camp recommendations are substantial -- from prioritizing outdoor activities, to promoting healthy hygiene practices, to keeping kids from eating hand sanitizer, to monitoring staff and campers for signs of illness (and having a plan when someone does get sick), to considerations for partial or total closures, and oh-so-much-more. L.A. County gave the go-ahead for day camps to reopen on June 12.


Party's over for now, but maybe not for long.

The day after bars were allowed to reopen in June, about 500,000 people decided to go out for a drink, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

About a week later, on June 28, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered them to close again immediately as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rates were increasing in various parts of the state.

On July 1 Newsom also closed down indoor operations at wineries and tasting rooms again. That order was to remain in place for at least three weeks.

Cut to September 29. The L.A. Board of Supervisors passed a motion to allow county breweries and wineries to resume outdoor operations in one week, with restrictions. Changes went into effect on October 6:

"Breweries and wineries that are not food facilities and possess the following state alcohol licenses, #20, #23, #40, #42, and #61, may conduct for outdoor dining operations under certain conditions outlined below. Clarified that alcohol must be purchased in the same transaction as a bona fide meal at breweries and wineries."

Well it finally happened. We are in Footloose. Dancing is banned. L.A. County said bars, breweries, brewpubs, tasting rooms, craft distilleries and wineries could reopen at 50% capacity starting June 19, but dancing there is prohibited (so is karaoke, trivia, open mics, and other revelry) .

Also, you can't stand and drink. Customers are not allowed to buy or consume beverages while standing.

You can order and drink at the bar if you stay seated and six feet away from other patrons and the bartender. You can not order and pick up drinks at the bar and then walk them to your table. Drinks ordered at your table will be brought to you.

"Reducing person-to-person interaction" is another consideration so you might see more mobile ordering, contactless payment, and text on arrival for seating.

See more details, diagrams, and compliance checklists in the county's official protocols.


L.A. County gave the go ahead for this group on June 19. On July 1, they were shut down again. Citing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was re-closing indoor operations in multiple business sectors, including this one, effective immediately. The order was to remain in place for at least three weeks.

On September 29. The L.A. Board of Supervisors passed a motion to allow cardrooms to resume outdoor operations with restrictions. Changes went into effect on October 5:

"To the maximum extent practicable, all operations are moved outdoors. Food and beverage service is allowed only in designated outdoor dining areas. Alcohol cannot be served without food, and food and beverages may not be served or consumed at gaming tables. All staff and patrons at the gaming tables are required to wear face coverings the entire time they are at the tables.:


L.A. County allowed the following establishments to reopen at 50% capacity on June 19. This group of reopenings applies to services that require touching a client's face or body:

On July 13 Gov. Newsom closed them down again in L.A., citing the spread of COVID-19, and announced that the entire state was moving back into a modified version of the stay-at-home order.

On July 21, L.A. County updated its protocols to allow for some personal care services to resume some operations outdoors.

On Sept. 30, nail salons were approved for a 25% occupancy restricted re-reopening for some indoor services; changes went into effect on Oct. 1. As many services as possible should still take place outside. Facials, massage, waxing, microblading, and other personal not permitted under the newest rules.


L.A. County health officials cleared hotels and short-term rentals to reopen for recreational use on June 12.



LAUSD announced that classes would be online-only when the new school year starts on Aug. 18. District officials said L.A.'s coronavirus numbers went the wrong way and they would not be opening campuses for in-person instruction.

Superintendent Austin Beutner said more robust "distance learning" options would be available (unlike last spring), and that students should expect "daily, live engagement" with teachers. He did not give a date or timetable for reopening campuses.

Long Beach, Pasadena, and Glendale schools are also planning to offer online-only learning this fall.


On Aug. 3 California released guidelines for reinstating youth sports. L.A. County followed with reopening protocols two days later. The new rules apply to: recreational youth sports leagues, club sports, travel sports, sports sponsored by public schools (TK-12), and sports sponsored by private schools (TK-12). Some of the conditions:

• Training, conditioning, skill-building activities permitted.
• All activities have to take place outdoors.
• Sun shelters allowed if sides of are open for air flow.
• Kicking or throwing a ball is allowed in pairs, not as a group.
• High-fives, handshakes, and fist bumps are "discouraged."
• Masks required at all times for players, coaches, and family/visitors.
• Mask exceptions for swimming, showering, eating/drinking, solo exercise, more.
• Players need six feet of distance from each other and coaches (eight feet during heavy physical exertion).




California - Sector Reopening Guidelines
L.A. County - Reopening Protocols
L.A. County - Health Officer Order
L.A. County - Daily Data
L.A. County - Social Distancing Protocols
L.A. County - Face Covering Protocols
L.A. County - What's Open/Closed


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