Alameda County eases into indoor dining with 25% capacity

With Alameda County graduating into the less restrictive orange tier for COVID-19 reopenings, health officials are allowing restaurants to operate at 25% of normal indoor capacity, or no more than 100 people. They must also and abide by other safety rules.

The orange tier is the second least restrictive tier.

"It's the first step to getting back to normal. And we're all excited. We worked our tails off the past seven months, not being able to have customers inside. It's definitely a good feeling," says Dustin Goff, owner of Jim's Country Style Restaurant in Pleasanton.

Under California guidelines, the orange tier actually allows for 50% of indoor capacity, but Alameda County health officials say they want to take a more measured approach with 25%.

That's okay with Chris Pastena, owner of the Chop Bar near Oakland's Jack London Square.

"As we go through the weekend we will kind of keep it at a slower pace so that our staff gets accustomed to it. The guests feel comfortable. We're not going to push the envelope," he said.

UC Berkeley infectious disease specialist Dr. John Swartzberg has concerns about reopening too fast.

"Right around the corner, we are going to see the case numbers going up. We're not isolated from the rest of the country. The rest of the country is pretty much exploding," he said.

The county says it moved from the red tier to orange because the COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations, and percentage of positive tests remain stable.

"Things are more favorable here than in other parts of the country. We think it is okay to let some of these activities happen. But of course, we are concerned the numbers could go in the other direction," says Interim Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss.

Along with restaurants, starting Friday religious services, gyms, and movie theaters can open at 25% capacity in the county.
Bowling alleys can also. That includes The Plank in Oakland, which is opening four of its 18 lanes.

"It's a beautiful day outdoors and we expect a beautiful day indoors as well," said general manager Jorge Garcia.

In the Bay Area, the only other counties in the orange tier are Santa Clara and Napa Counties. San Francisco is in the yellow, or least restrictive tier.