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Morning Brief: Forest Bathing, TV Streaming, And Skepticism About Indoor Dining

Hawkins House of Burgers in Watts. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s March 19.

As part of L.A.’s move to the red tier, restaurants can reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity, and with tables spaced eight feet apart.

For some, that’s great news. But for others, it still feels a little too soon. My colleague Elina Shatkin spoke with restaurateurs throughout Southern California to see how they’re feeling about welcoming patrons back to indoor dining rooms, and found mixed feelings across the board.

Vanda Asapahu, the co-owner of Ayara Thai in Westchester, said that dedicating a new team to new protocols just to serve at 25% isn’t a sound business move for them.

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“It doesn't make quite the financial and business sense," she said.

Celia Ward-Wallace, co-founder of South LA Cafe, is more concerned about the spread of the virus.

"We're located in South Central Los Angeles, which is a lower income community of color,” she said. “We've been hit the hardest in the entire city by COVID-19 … When we see there's more equity in the vaccinations for people of color in South Central L.A. and the caseloads have gone down, then I think we'll be reconsidering.”

Some restaurant owners or managers reported that their staff had trouble accessing vaccine appointments after becoming eligible on March 1, which makes them even more cautious about reopening.

"Many of our staff have found it very difficult to navigate the vaccination appointment websites,” Asapahu said. “We've actually had to help make appointments, set appointments, even helping their frontline working family members make these appointments.”

Restaurateurs have good reason to be cautious. Of all industries, theirs was perhaps subject to the most back-and-forth when it came to opening, closing and reopening over the past year.

After being required to shut their doors when the pandemic first hit California, L.A. restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor dining in May of last year. Officials soon discovered that many weren’t following the suggested protocol, though, and closed them down again. A quick succession of opening and closing outdoor dining ensued, all of which culminated in some businesses simply ignoring the rules altogether.

For some restaurateurs, the takeaway is that expectations have been lowered quite a bit.

“The main goal right now” said David LeFevre, who owns three restaurants in Manhattan Beach, “is breaking even.”

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

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What Else You Need To Know Today

  • The House Judiciary Committee, led by SoCal politicians, held a hearing today on violence against Asians.
  • Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary -- the first Latino to hold the post.
  • Amid double digit community college enrollment drops, L.A. City College has relied on a customer service approach to keep students on track.
  • AMC is opening more theaters today, but it'll be hard to overcome the popularity of streaming.
  • As part of a series of conversations that Cal State Northridge journalism students had with loved ones about COVID-19 vaccinations, one participant’s grandmother was reminded of the polio vaccine.
  • Tinhorn Flats, Burbank’s pandemic-rule-defying Western-themed bar, remains open despite officials’ repeated attempts to shut it down.

Weekend Reads

There's a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s hard enough to keep up with our day-to-day lives, let alone to stay current on the news. But if you have some time this weekend, here’s what you may have missed:

In the San Gabriel Valley, some members of the Asian American community are afraid to go out alone. (LAist)

Latasha Harlins was commemorated by South L.A. officials on the 30th anniversary of her death. (L.A. Sentinel)

Four generations of women navigated the pandemic together, under one roof — with the help of a whiteboard. (L.A. Watts Times)

L.A.’s plans for so-called “granny flats” — backyard apartments that can potentially offer affordable housing — are home design eye candy. (LAist)

In Santa Ana, people in the country without legal status can now run for the city’s committees and commissions. (La Opinión)

A costume designer reflects on her Chinese American and L.A. roots. (LAist)

Lowriders were on display at Highland Park’s “York Boulevard Cruise Night.” (L.A. Taco)

When Disneyland reopens at the end of April, you’ll be able to go on a ride called the “Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind” — an apt metaphor for these times. (LAist)

The historic Sears building in Boyle Heights is closing its doors for good. (LAist)

Wichhica Nhim has helped his family run Combo A, the Echo Park Chinese restaurant, since the early 2000’s. (The Eastsider)

Before You Go … This Week’s Outdoor Pick: Forest Bathing

The LA Arboretum holds special forest bathing sessions that may help relieve stress and anxiety. (Courtesy of the LA Arboretum)

As L.A. moves into the red tier, we’ll transition our events section — slowly, slowly — back to including options for IRL activities. This week, we bring you some of both, including guided forest bathing at the L.A. Arboretum in Arcadia. This form of nature therapy is said to boost immunity, reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning.

Or, some other options: Take in a drag show at the drive-in. Watch a a family-friendly flick inside a theater. Celebrate Nowruz online. View portraits by artist Amy Sherald. Learn Irish dance for St. "Catrick's" Day. Take a sound walk in Griffith Park. And more.

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