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Here's What LA County's New Restrictions Mean For Restaurants (And Bars And Breweries And...)

A waitress delivers orders to diners seated outside under tents at an Alhambra restaurant on November 17, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
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As coronavirus cases surge, Los Angeles County officials have announced a set of stringent new restrictions that go into effect this Friday.

The new rules impose a curfew on restaurants, wineries, breweries and bars, and they limit the number of people these establishments can seat. The rules also limit the size of social gatherings.

When the new restrictions go into effect, here's what they'll look like:

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  1. Restaurants, wineries, breweries and all other non-essential businesses must close by 10 p.m. They can open for service at 6 a.m.

  2. For restaurants with outdoor service, outdoor dining capacity is limited to 50%.
  3. No indoor gatherings, and outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 15 people from no more than three households.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl made the announcement on Tuesday, November 17.

A closed table is seen at The Den Cafe in Santa Ana on November 17, 2020 following reimposed restrictions on indoor dining in Orange County. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Health officials had been hinting for weeks that if cases continued to rise, they would have to take such measures. And they did.

With the number of COVID-19 cases shooting up -- the adjusted coronavirus case rate in L.A. County nearly doubled in the past week -- the decision makes sense from a public health perspective. For Southern California's struggling restaurants, it's another blow in a year filled with brutal and unprecedented challenges.

Small, mom-and-pop restaurants with limited indoor space have been hit especially hard as they try to scrape by on expanded outdoor service, in some cases relying on L.A. Al Fresco, the city's outdoor dining initiative.

The surge in coronavirus cases isn't limited to Los Angeles County. Across California -- and the United States -- many areas are seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Officials have also warned that they may issue new stay-at-home orders if cases continue to rise.

If the average daily number of new cases hits 4,000 or hospitalizations hit 1,750 per day or more, the county plans to prohibit outdoor dining completely, limiting restaurants to take out and pick-up only. If the number goes above 4,500, we'll see a return to stay-at-home orders and a strict 10 p.m. curfew.

As of Wednesday, the five-day average is 3,176 cases and 1,118 hospitalized patients.

People eat outside a restaurant in Los Angeles on November 12, 2020. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday that California is pulling the emergency brake on reopenings and many counties have been bumped back to the most restrictive tier (Purple) of the state's reopening framework.

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In California, 41 of the state's 58 counties, including every county in Southern California, are now in the Purple tier. L.A. County has been in Purple since August, when the reopening plan was announced.

Newsom also had to eat a little crow this week. On Monday, he apologized for attending a 12-person dinner party with his wife. Held at the French Laundry, a Napa restaurant with three Michelin stars, the November 6 event was a dinner to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday, according to Newsom.

"As soon as I sat down at the larger table, I realized it was a little larger group than I had anticipated. And I made a bad mistake. Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up, and walked back, got in my car, and drove back to my house," Newsom said.

At the time, Napa County was in the Orange tier, which allows restaurants to offer dine-in service at a maximum capacity of 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer. But Newsom said he knew the gathering wasn't in the spirit of the social distancing he has been preaching.

At a time when Californians are being urged to scale back their Thanksgivings by cancelling travel plans, not mixing more than three households and eating outside, if possible, it wasn't a good look for the governor.