L.A. reopening fast: What yellow tier means for restaurants, bars, amusement parks, gyms and more

Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money
·7 min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12: Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner cheering the school mascot with teachers and staff making a short video clip for returning students as he tours Westminster Avenue Elementary School and several other LAUSD campuses Monday morning before the first LAUSD students return to school through this week. The tour included meeting with school staff and looking at preparation and safety measures as the superintendent toured several schools. Venice on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times).
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner cheering the school mascot with teachers and staff making a short video clip for returning students as he tours Westminster Avenue Elementary School on April 12. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County and San Francisco have reached a threshold to enter California's most lenient yellow COVID-19 tier as soon as next week, if trends hold steady. So what could that mean?

In general, gyms, yoga and dance studios, movie theaters, amusement parks, sports venues, museums, zoos and aquariums can expand capacity, as can venues hosting receptions, conferences and meetings.

Bars that don't serve meals can also reopen indoors, as can saunas and steam rooms.

Besides L.A. County and San Francisco, Marin and Trinity counties in Northern California also appear poised to enter the yellow tier next week if trends hold. Only four California counties — all sparsely populated in the north — are now in the yellow tier: Alpine, Lassen, Mendocino and Sierra.

What's allowed in the yellow tier

Amusement parks and fairs can expand attendance up to 35% of capacity, up from 25% in the orange tier. The indoor space limit remains at 25%. Visitors must either be a resident of California or be fully vaccinated.

Restaurants are no longer capped at 200 people, as is required in the orange tier, but must still keep its venue at no more than 50% of capacity. As in the orange tier, the limit can increase to 75% if all guests show proof of full vaccination or of a negative coronavirus test.

Movie theaters can expand up to 50% of capacity from the previous cap of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer. If all guests show proof of full vaccination or a negative test, the limit can increase to 75%, up from 37.5% from the orange tier.

Shopping malls' common areas can reopen with modifications.

Bars that don't serve food can reopen indoors, with a maximum of 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. The limit can increase to 37.5% if all guests show proof of full vaccination or a negative test. In the orange tier, bars where no meals are provided can be open only outdoors.

Conferences, receptions and meetings can accommodate up to 200 people outdoors, or up to 400 people if everyone tests negative or shows proof of full vaccination. Indoor conferences, receptions and meetings can be held only if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination, and are limited to a maximum of 200 people. Conferences, meetings and receptions need to have assigned seating and no intermingling of private events.

By contrast, in the orange tier, conferences, receptions and meetings are limited to a maximum of 100 people outdoors, or up to 300 people outdoors if everyone tests negative or shows proof of full vaccination. In the orange tier, indoor conferences, receptions and meetings are allowed, for up to 150 people, only if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination.

Wineries, breweries and distilleries can expand to 50% of capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer; in the orange tier, the limit was 25% or 100 people, whichever was fewer. Attendance can increase to 75% of capacity if all guests show proof of full vaccination or a negative test, up from 37.5% in the orange tier.

Gyms and card rooms can expand indoor attendance to 50% of capacity, up from 25%. If all guests show proof of full vaccination or a negative test, the limit can increase to 75%, up from 37.5%.

Yoga and dance studios and satellite wagering sites can open indoors up to 50% capacity, up from 25%.

Saunas and steam rooms can reopen, up to a maximum of 50% of capacity. In the orange tier, saunas and steam rooms were still ordered shut.

Indoor family entertainment centers, including arcades, ice-skating rinks, playgrounds, bowling alleys, escape rooms, bounce centers, ball pits and laser tag arenas, can expand to 50% of capacity, up from 25%. If all guests show proof of full vaccination or a negative test, the limit can increase to 75%, up from 50% in the orange tier. Food and beverage service can occur only in designated areas.

Museums, zoos and aquariums must retain some modifications indoors but no longer need to abide by the maximum limit established in the orange tier of 50% of capacity or up to 75% of capacity if all guests show proof of full vaccination or a negative test.

Informal social gatherings can be expanded outdoors to 100 people, up from 50 people; indoor gatherings continue to be strongly discouraged, but are allowed at up to 50% of the venue's capacity or up to 50 people, whichever is fewer. In the orange tier, outdoor attendance is capped at 50 people; indoor is capped at up to 25% of capacity or 25 people, whichever is fewer.

Outdoor seated live events, which includes baseball games, can expand to 67% of capacity in the yellow tier, up from 33% in the orange tier; suites remain capped at 25% of capacity, but if everyone is fully vaccinated, suites may operate at full capacity. Guests must live in California or must be fully vaccinated. In the orange tier, the limit can go up to 67% if everyone is tested or show proof of full vaccination.

People in sections of the venue that are marked as those for fully vaccinated people do not need to be physically distanced and can be seated at full capacity, but must wear face coverings. People are considered fully vaccinated if it's been two or more weeks since receiving their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose, or two or more weeks since receiving their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Children age 2 or older not eligible to be vaccinated may sit with their parent or sponsor in the fully vaccinated-only section only if they are tested. Verification of vaccination can include the vaccination card; a photo of the vaccination card; a photo of the vaccine card stored on a phone; or documentation of vaccination from a healthcare provider.

People in sections of the venue that are marked for those who have received only a negative test must have had their test done within 72 hours before the event start time if using a PCR test; antigen tests are allowed but must be conducted within 24 hours of the start of the event. Acceptable documents include a printed document or an email or text message displayed on a phone from the lab or test provider.

Indoor seated live events and performances in large-capacity venues — with capacity for more than 1,500 guests — can reach 10% of capacity or 2,000 guests, whichever is fewer, but if everyone has a negative test or has proof of full vaccination, the limit can increase to 50%, up from 35% in the orange tier.

In smaller venues of up to 1,500 guests, indoor live venues are capped at 25% of capacity or 300 people in the yellow tier, whichever is fewer, or up to 50% if all guests are tested or can show proof of full vaccination. In the orange tier, smaller venues are capped at 15% of capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer, or up to 35% of capacity if all guests are tested or can show proof vaccination.

In all such indoor venues, only California residents or those who are fully vaccinated are permitted; drinking and eating are allowed only in designated areas in situations where everyone either has tested negative or has proof of full vaccination; and suites can hold no more than 25% of capacity, with a maximum of members of three households in attendance.

Churches are strongly recommended to be keep attendance at 50% of capacity, the same as the orange tier.

The color-coded tier framework that regulates the economy's reopening is expected to be moot in a few months. California is aiming to scrap the framework and fully reopen its economy on June 15, as long as vaccine supply is stable and hospitalization numbers stay low, though some safety rules will remain in place. For instance, large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, are expected to be allowed to resume, but with testing or vaccination verification requirements, the governor's office has said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.