Like many businesses, the Metsos restaurant, Patys, located in the Lake Toluca neighborhood of Los Angeles, was a success when they were forced to close inland operations.
But Monday, for the first time in months, was able to welcome all of its employees – along with a large number of customers – to eat indoors, as LA County eased some of its restrictions.
“It’s really a weird feeling for us because we haven’t had anyone in the building since Thanksgiving,” Metsos told CNN. “We’ve been waiting for this day to reopen for a long time … Personally, I haven’t been able to sleep the last two nights thinking about today because I’m so happy for my staff.”
The restaurants, which until now only offered takeaway food and / or al fresco dining, opened indoors with a maximum of 25% capacity. Museums, zoos and aquariums with a maximum capacity of 25% were also allowed to reopen. Gyms, fitness centers, yoga studios and dance studios were also able to reopen indoors with a maximum occupancy of 10%.
According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH), all reopening requires wearing masks and socially distancing oneself.
Many employers say they are ready to welcome people
Many business owners, including Metsos, welcomed the news as it indicated a step towards normalcy.
“I think it’s time,” Jerry Housey, owner of Strong House Fitness in Los Angeles, told CNN. “Our gym workers should have been classified as essential workers because the gym is a way out for people’s physical and mental health.”
Housey said he reopened the gym on Monday after struggling to pay the gym rent for months.
He said he and his team “had to push” to provide virtual training. “But people are tired,” he said. “They want to get out of the house and go back to the gym facilities now.”
“A lot of people have contacted me with a lot of enthusiasm to get back to the gym,” he added. “And I am very proud and happy to be able to offer our services to more people.”
Christy Vega, owner of Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks, said the restaurant is ready for more customers.
“In addition to our two parking lots full of outdoor dining, our indoor dining tables today will be 8 feet apart and I have installed two HEPA filters in all of our air conditioning and ventilation units,” he told CNN. “We have all the doors open and we can only accommodate 20 people in my restaurant, but we are very excited.”
For Vega, the pandemic has been a challenge both personally and professionally: he lost his father to Covid two months ago and also had to relocate 90% of the restaurant’s employees, twice.
“Going to the red level makes me so hopeful that things will start to get back to normal,” he said. “I am very grateful that the numbers have come down and we are in a much safer environment.”
Others still don’t have as much desire to reopen their doors
Others are more cautiously optimistic about reopening their doors.
Caroline Styne, co-founder of the Lucca group, which owns four restaurants in Southern California, said she and her employees are excited, but the new changes are “terrifying.”
“It’s scary just because we’ve all been in this mode of protection and protection for a while and the positive change is alien to us now,” he said, adding that all of his employees are vaccinated.
Kevin Montgomery, owner of Red Diamond Yoga, which has several locations in Los Angeles, said he is in no hurry to reopen his business with just 10% capacity.
“It will make me much more excited to reopen inside when we’re outside the 10% capacity limit,” he said, noting that a limited reopening “really doesn’t make sense” for his yoga studies.
“I have a room with a capacity for about 17 people with the instructor completely distanced: 10% of that is two people. So we lose money in each class. That’s why today we are in no hurry to open inside “.
He said many people “prefer outdoor classes” amid the pandemic.
“We usually do 70 classes per study a week,” he said. “In two locations, we can only run about 40 in the open a week. It doesn’t matter how you cut it, even though it’s been devastating.”
Still, he is optimistic.
“My hope is that the county will continue to drop the numbers and that more people will be vaccinated to get customers back. It doesn’t make sense to open up with all sorts of restrictions and no one is coming.”
Company that operates with optimism and caution
While the reopening is exciting, some still said they anticipate more pandemic challenges.
David Schenk, owner of the Lift Society in Studio City, said he and his staff were happy to reopen it, but they know it will take a while to adjust to the new regulations.
“We’ll have a couple of hundred customers, but everyone will be on a different page,” he told CNN. “This will be difficult to navigate because some people are afraid of dying to come back, and others are depressed, have gained 30 kilos and are ready to do something about it right now. It’s a great spectrum of people and our job is make sure everyone is comfortable. “
Metsos, of Patys, said the biggest challenge he envisions is “being with the public.”
“If we have 25% capacity, it’s going to have to wait and some people don’t like it,” he said. “This morning we already had a couple asking us ‘two more wouldn’t hurt right?’ So that’s what I think could be a problem. “
“When we start to see some hard-earned reopenings, we need to stay as vigilant as ever,” said Hilda Solis, LA county supervisor. “The continued decline in cases is by no means a guarantee. And if we are not careful, we could easily fall to the purple level or, worse, experience another resurgence.”
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