Encinitas restaurant sees opportunity amid new rules for indoor seating

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ENCINITAS, Calif. – San Diego County restaurants welcomed guests indoors Monday for the first time in weeks after qualifying to reopen under the state’s new tiered health guidelines system.

“You basically run in circles like a crazy person — no idea what’s going to happen the next day — and at the drop of a hat, it’s like, ‘Go, OK, let’s go’, said Jamie Houtman, general manager of Union Kitchen & Tap in Encinitas.

Under the new state’s new rules, restaurants now can fill up to 25% capacity indoors or 100 people, depending on which number is lower. The state also set similar guidelines for a host of other industries, allowing at least partial indoor operations at gyms, movie theaters, barbershops and nail salons, among others.

Most have been operating entirely outdoors or in another limited capacity since July when Gov. Gavin Newsom and state public health officials reversed course on reopening guidance amid a surge of cases in California.

At last, Houtman feels the latest change is a move in the right direction.

“We might live in Southern California where it’s all sunny and beautiful, but at some point in time no one is going to want to sit outside anymore,” he said, “and then what happens?”

But with reopening comes additional costs for the restaurant. Food and cleaning supplies remain in high demand — and even tables recently have been hard to come by, Houtman said.

Still, he said restaurants are thankful for the new range of options to accommodate customers.

“My feelings are it’s an opportunity,” he said. “Finally, we are allowed to go back inside.”

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