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Claremont restaurants get the okay for sit-down dining

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Last Friday the county of Los Angeles got the go ahead to reopen its barbershops and salons as well as inviting guests into restaurant dining rooms, even as it continues to lead the state in total number of coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors sent a variance request to the state of California last Tuesday after Governor Gavin Newsom relaxed restrictions on every county in southern California except Los Angeles.

The governor’s action meant that adjacent counties including San Bernardino and Orange would be able to open their hair salons and restaurants while similar business in LA County would remain shuttered.

Now that the variance has been approved the county has effectively advanced into phase three of the “Roadmap to Recovery” outlined by county health officials last month.

According to a news release from the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, the variance was approved because the county had demonstrated that it controlled the spread of the virus, and is protecting residents and essential workers. Additionally hospital testing and contact tracing capacity are at appropriate levels in response to the outbreak.

However, since last Wednesday the county has recorded 9,534 new coronavirus cases—an increase of 16.4 percent in one week. Over that same period of time another 294 people succumbed to COVID-19.

Claremont businesses wasted little time responding to the news of the variance approval by opening up their closed storefronts.

Claremont resident Rob Titus was crossing Yale Avenue Friday afternoon after picking up a pizza and salad from Pizza N Such. He noted that the Village did seem much busier than it had been for some time, perhaps due to retail stores opening earlier in the day. As far as restaurants opening their dining areas, he had one favorite.

“I want the Village Grille to reopen, I feel bad for them. I feel bad for everyone,” he said.

Melissa Harvey, owner of Salon 6SixtyFive, was busy getting her business ready last Friday so she could reopen.

On Thursday, Ms. Harvey confirmed that she had in fact reopened the salon.

“We are taking it slow, especially now with the curfews being put in place. I have only about three stylists working this week. We should have a few more next week. We are staggering them on different days to try to have fewer people in the salon at one time,” she said. 

Ms. Harvey spoke with the COURIER last month about her, thus far, unsuccessful attempt to get one of Claremont’s small business grants. Ms. Handel said the deadline for businesses to complete the application was extended to June 1. Assistant City Manager Chris Paulson was scheduled to begin reviewing the materials and awarding the grants this past week.

“Update on the grant is I’m still on the waiting list,” Ms. Harvey said.

Claremont mainstay Walter’s restaurant opened with limited capacity on Saturday. They are seating guests in the patio area and in very limited spaces inside. Clear plastic panels have been installed between booths and they are seating guests at every other table outside.

On Wednesday, Chino Hills resident Bea Pappas was having lunch on the Walter’s patio with her friend Rancho Cucamonga resident Kathy McCauley. The pair said they were looking for a restaurant where they could meet up, but wanted it to have plenty of fresh air.

Ms. McCauley noted that this was the first time since the stay-at-home order began in March that she has been to a restaurant.

Owner Fahima Ghafarshad said that Walter’s is currently open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. but they are reevaluating the business every day to determine future hours. They are currently running a skeleton staff of 12 or so down from more than 60 prior to the shutdown. If business improves they plan to bring more employees back, but some are not ready to return to work.

“Since opening on Saturday we have had a lot of people come out to support us,” Ms. Ghafarshad said. However, the curfews that sent county residents back home meant that Walter’s had to close early Monday and Tuesday.

“Reopening our retail and now restaurants and salons is a big step in recovering Claremont’s economy,” Claremont’s Public Information Officer Bevin Handel told the COURIER. “Staff will be working with restaurants and businesses to facilitate reopening plans that may require outdoor seating or expansion of dining areas to accommodate safety guidelines.”

The safety measures that restaurants, salons and barbershops must employ include: putting physical distancing measures in place; screening employees and customers for symptoms, including cough and fever; instructing customers feeling unwell to stay at home; and requiring that everyone, including customers, must wear cloth face coverings while in the place of business (diners may remove the face covering when eating.)

Additional restrictions for barber shops and salons include eliminating magazines, coffee and other amenities. Clients are encouraged to use credit cards and contactless payment systems. If electronic or card payment is not possible, customers should come with exact cash payment or check. Stylists may only serve one client at a time.

At restaurants, outdoor seating and curbside pickup will be prioritized and reservations will be encouraged. Customers will be asked to wait for their table outside to prevent crowds from gathering, and bar areas will be closed. Occupancy will be limited to 60 percent of capacity for the next three weeks.

Businesses and facilities that are still closed include gyms, fitness centers, piers, arcades, bowling alleys, movie theaters, live performance theaters, concert halls, stadiums, arenas, theme parks, gaming facilities and festivals.

“This is an important milestone for Los Angeles County as we move forward in our path of reopening and recovery,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said in a statement.s

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