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10 p.m. curfew imposed for all San Diego County restaurants and bars

Patrons dine outside Barleymash restaurant June 18 in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter.
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

It is not just bars that will be affected by a set of new rules that seek to slow the spread of the coronavirus in San Diego County. Restaurants of all kinds will also operate under reduced hours, the county health department announced Tuesday afternoon.

Bars not serving food with every drink order were already mandated to shut down at midnight Wednesday. But public health officials added a significant additional mandate just hours before the new rule was to take effect: All restaurants, including bars serving food, must close at 10 p.m.

This fresh set of edicts has loopholes, though.

Restaurants, including those that do not serve alcohol, must be “closed” from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following day. But patrons already inside an establishment when closing time arrives will be allowed to hang around until 11 p.m. And wine drinkers get an additional boon. Wineries can continue serving their products, without having to also serve food, provided service is outdoors.

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Everybody, whether inside or out, restaurant or bar, may serve only people who are seated at tables. Open seating will not be allowed, and mingling with people outside one’s immediate party is forbidden.

The restrictions all but guarantee the end of San Diego County’s recently rebooted nightlife. The new rules arrive as the region is seeing an increased number of positive COVID-19 cases and additional burdens appearing in hospitals.

On Tuesday, there were 317 new cases announced, significantly fewer than the single-day, record-setting 498 added Monday. In addition, local hospitalizations continued to increase, reaching a new record of 493 people in hospital beds across the county. Deaths also continued to increase, reaching 365 from a previous total of 361. The county’s 14-day average positive test rate continued to hover at 4.2%.

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Officials said Tuesday that they know the latest orders affecting restaurants and bars are not likely to be popular with the public, especially as the Fourth of July weekend arrives. But Supervisor Greg Cox said that allowing bars to remain open, and restaurants to stay open late, would invite trouble.

Other counties surrounding San Diego — including Los Angeles County — have already been ordered by the state to shut their bars. Being the lone county in Southern California with bars and restaurants open late on the Fourth, Cox said, just did not seem like the right adventure to choose.

“Having San Diego bars open exposes us to risk of larger crowds here celebrating the holiday at our establishments and accelerating the spread of the virus,” he said. “It’s a risk we do not want to take.”

There seems to be less concern about local beaches becoming magnets for weekend visitors from the north and east.

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Though Los Angeles County has already announced that its coastline will be closed, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said a similar plan has not yet surfaced in San Diego. Fletcher said public health data does not show many coronavirus outbreaks outdoors, prompting the county to stay out of open-or-close decisions, leaving them to individual beach cities and the state parks department.

“I’ve spoken to a few of the coastal mayors who all feel confident they can maintain order at their beaches throughout the holiday weekend,” Fletcher said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom orders the immediate closure of bars, restaurants and other indoor facilities in 19 counties as COVID-19 cases spike.

It was clear, though, that there may still be some discussion in store before beach closure decisions are finalized.

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Oceanside City Manager Deanna Lorson said the coastal North County city has no plans so far to close city beaches or beach parking lots again, but cities have a standing COVID-19 meeting with the county on Wednesdays, and it could be discussed then.

A Carlsbad official said they’ve been talking with other coastal cities, state parks and the county, but no final decisions have been made.

Sisson writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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