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On 31 August, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new color coded reopening plan that assigns California counties to 4 tiers. The tiers reflect the severity of Covid-19 outbreak based on what health officials already know about the pandemic and its spread.

Unlike older systems, the new color coded reopening plan offers simplified guidelines for restaurants and other businesses to reopen safely. “COVID-19 will be with us for a long time and we need to adapt,” Newsom said, which means it’s going to take some time.

It might be slow, but with this new color coded reopening plan, the long foodservice hiatus looks like it might come to its gradual end.

Here’s how it works.

New Color Coded Reopening Plan Explained

The Blueprint for a Safer Economy assigns each county one of 4 color categories — purple, red, orange and yellow — will determine how many business sectors can reopen and at what capacity.

Each color represents a 7-day reduction in the number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents, as well as positive tests by percentage.

new color coded reopening plan for restaurants

Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow

Purple: “Widespread”

More than 8% positive tests.

  • Restaurants can only operate outside.
  • Bars and breweries that don’t serve food remain closed.
  • Wineries remain closed.

Red: “Substantial”

More than 5% positive tests.

  1. Restaurants can operate indoors at 25% capacity or 100 diners, whichever is fewer.
  2. Bars and breweries that don’t serve food remain closed.
  3. Wineries remain closed.

Orange: “Moderate”

Weekly 2-5% positive tests.

  • Restaurants can operate at 50% capacity or 200 diners, whichever is fewer.
  • Bars and breweries that don’t serve food can reopen for outdoor drinking.
  • Wineries can open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Yellow: “Minimal”

Less than 2% test positivity rate.

  • Restaurants can open indoors at 50% capacity.
  • Bars and breweries that don’t serve food can reopen indoors at 50% capacity.
  • Wineries can operate indoors at 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer.
new color coded reopening plan tiers in california

Find out which tier your county is in here.

What Restaurants Can Do to Move Up the Tiers

To avoid being assigned a more restrictive tier in this new color coded reopening plan, counties need to stay in their assigned tier for at least 3 weeks. Then, if the county succeeds in meeting the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks, it moves up one tier.

This means the better restaurants will be at keeping the rules and regulations, the more likely we’ll be able to move forward to the next tier. Here are some important guidelines to help restaurants move forward.

  • Face coverings and gloves have proved useful in the fight against this pandemic and all employees should be equipped with enough of them.
  • Help staff and diners keep social distancing rules by redesigning your restaurant. Maintain 6 ft of physical distance by removing tables and chairs from dining areas.
  • Perform temperature screenings for all workers at the beginning of their shift as well as for diners entering the restaurant.
  • Remind customers to use hand sanitizer and to wear a face covering when not eating or drinking.
  • Display appropriate signage outlining proper face covering usage and current physical distancing practices in the entrance to the restaurant as well as in different locations inside, particularly in the bathrooms.
  • Avoid using shared items as much as possible, those are known to get contaminated and spread the virus.
  • Provide disposable menus to guests and make menus available digitally. Use single serve condiments only.
  • Maintain the highest standard of sanitation and personal hygiene.

For detailed guidelines on the new color coded reopening plan for California restaurants visit here.

An Eye to the Future

The color code plan was designed for a slow and steady progress of reopening businesses. Things will not happen overnight, but Dr. Mark Ghaly, Newsom’s Health and Human Services Secretary, says decreased positivity rates are a good sign.

Restaurants can slowly open their doors for guests and if health guidelines are strictly followed, no reason San Francisco restaurants can’t move forward to the Minimal tier.

Learn how to get your restaurant ready for the new color coded reopening plan here.



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