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New CA Health Order Shuts Down Outdoor Dining In Pasadena

People dine outside at a restaurant in Pasadena in December 2020.
(Josie Huang/LAist)
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The sidewalk bordering Millie’s Cafe in Pasadena filled up Sunday morning with diners at tables separated by plastic partitions, enjoying their last pancakes and coffee on-site for at least three weeks.

That’s the length of a state health order imposed on Southern California that took effect late Sunday night.

The order includes a ban on outdoor dining at restaurants, which had already been implemented across L.A. County by a local health order issued in late November. But not in Pasadena, which has its own health department and decided to break with the county on outdoor service.

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The new order means now even restaurants there have to stop serving patrons on the premises.

Julian Babish’s family owns Millie’s and he said the day carried some sadness.

“Our whole family works here,” Babish said. “You know, this is everything we got.”

The stay-at-home order for Southern California was triggered by the region’s ICU bed capacity dropping below 15%. As of Monday, it was 10.9%.

Public health officials have voiced concern that transmission risk is higher at restaurants because people have to take their masks off to eat and drink and may by congregating with people outside their household.

Babish, who wore a mask and face shield, agreed that controlling the pandemic with restrictions is necessary, but he said that officials have been disproportionately strict with restaurants.

“I think that's the last thing people are getting the virus from because we've been open the whole pandemic,” Babish said. “No one on our staff has gotten it.”

Babish says he's grateful restaurants are still allowed to serve takeout. Patrons have surprised him by even ordering breakfast during the pandemic.

Millie’s customer Steven Gonzalez of Alhambra was waiting for his pancake plate with his brother and sister. His siblings had driven in from the Inland Empire and they settled on meeting in Pasadena because it was open for dining.

Steve Gonzalez of Alhambra met his siblings for brunch at Millie's Cafe on the last day outdoor service was allowed in Pasadena for at least three weeks.
(Josie Huang/LAist)
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Gonzalez, a video editor, was aware of the regional order and said “we all have to knuckle down and stay home to prevent the spreading.”

“But it’s unfortunate that the people who work in the hospitality industry have to bear the expense of it because a lot of small mom-and-pop businesses are going to close their doors for good after this,” Gonzalez said.

Leo Temory, manager of The Cellar in Old Town Pasadena, said he worried about his 20 co-workers. He said when the establishment reopened, the staff was eager to come back.

“They got off of employment. They’re relying to pay the rent with the money they make here,” Temory said. “It’s really heartbreaking and sad that we have to shut down again.”

Temory said business had actually seen a bump over the past two weeks because the rest of L.A. County had shut down outdoor dining. He spent Sunday telling customers that they were closing at 10 p.m. Sunday “for who knows how long.”

Many of the patrons, he said, had no idea a new health order was taking effect.

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