Outdoor Dining In OC During COVID

As Orange County is plagued by massive spikes in COVID-19 diagnoses, and hospitals are flooded with people in need of medical assistance, many dine-in restaurants in the heart of the county opt to stay open with some controversial ‘outdoor dining’ options that defy California’s stay-at-home orders.

Ever since March of 2020, California has been struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, as it was heavily politicized and ignored until mid-spring and early summer. With rising cases as summer ended and fall began—as well as the incoming holidays—Governor Gavin Newsome put in place a limited stay-at-home order that banned many non-essential workplaces from staying open; barbershops and hair salons, nail salons and beauty spas, bars and hookah lounges, and most dine-in restaurants.

That last bunch of shop owners, the ones who run a majority of the sit-down, eat-in restaurants, did not take the ban on their work well. Orange Circle restaurant owner Mike Vinson, of Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, spoke on the issue. “We can’t tell our employees that they’re not going to get a check,” Vinson said. “Me and the wife just decided that we can’t do it. It’s not that we won’t. We can’t.” He describes his stance with other owners as a form of “peaceful protest” against the stay-at-home orders.

Small businesses, restaurants, and salons were the hardest hit back in the spring of 2020, during some of the first state-wide shutdowns, and many employees were laid off or put on indefinite leave. It’s understandable to want to promise employees a check, and to want to continue to make money any way you can during a pandemic, however, the strides that some business owners are taking to continue to make money put more people in danger than it does keeping people safe.

Photo from KTLA News Broadcast 12/14/2020

Many Orange Circle restaurants use the loophole of ‘outdoor dining’ to continue to serve and take customers, despite many restaurants being dine-in only. Tarps in closed off, pedestrian-only streets, and are very much an inside experience that pass that state’s qualifications of being outside; however, they are not ventilated or open in any way, shape, or form. It is an impractical addition to supposed “outdoor dining” as it still puts many customers at risk of coming in contact with the coronavirus in a closed-off area.

Even though the stay-at-home order has been in effect since November of 2020, LA and Orange County sheriffs have both stated that they will not be strictly enforcing the order to citizens of their counties. This comes from a long nine months of both counties having subpar reactions to statewide orders, and their distinct rule-breaking has resulted in over 210,000 cases of coronavirus patients cumulatively. With over 1,300 cases every day—and that number has been projected to only keep increasing as restrictions become more and more lax and ignored.