Zinqué restaurant in Little Italy, which on Wednesday was open only for takeout. Courtesy of the restaurant

San Diego County received the go-ahead from the state of California Wednesday night to allow restaurants to again serve dine-in customers.

“Progress San Diego! The State of CA has approved our ‘attestation‘ to move forward through Stage 2. In-dining restaurant (with modifications) and in-store retail (with modifications) can open. Let’s continue our responsible re-opening!” tweeted Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

San Diego, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are the largest urban jurisdictions so far permitted to move more quickly than the rest of California into a general reopening of businesses.

“The good news is, more than 20 counties are now further into the second stage of reopening, which means restaurants have opened, too,” tweeted the California Restaurant Association.

San Diego’s request was filed on Tuesday night after the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow restaurants to reopen because of local progress in controlling the coronavirus pandemic and increasing testing.

Before restaurants can fully reopen, they’ll need to follow the county’s San Diego Safe Onsite Dining Plan, then fill out the COVID-19 Restaurant Operating Protocol and post it at entrances.

The plan includes a number of requirements that will result in a very different restaurant experience. Among the most notable changes:

  • Face coverings must be worn by all restaurant employees who interact with the public.
  • Tables must be arranged at least six feet apart, or if not movable, separated by a partition.
  • Customers waiting to be seated must stand six feet apart, with floor tape placed as a reminder.
  • Patrons at a single table must be limited to household units or groups that have asked to be seated together.
  • Signs will be posted to remind customers to maintain physical distancing of six feet, wash hands or use
    sanitizer upon entry, and to stay home if they are ill or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Face coverings must be worn by customers when not seated at their table.
  • Shared food items like condiment bottles, salt and pepper shakers, or breadbaskets are prohibited.
  • Self-service buffets and salad bars are prohibited.
  • Self-service machines, such as soda and frozen yogurt machines, are prohibited.
  • Tableside food preparation and presentation of foods, such as food selection carts, are prohibited.
  • Leftover food must be packaged by the customer for takeout.

Restaurants are also encouraged to require reservations, expand outdoor seating, use a no-contact payment system, and provide disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizers for customers.

Updated at 7:50 a.m., Thursday, May 21

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.