South Bay bars and businesses ready for expected move to orange tier

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021
South Bay businesses ready for orange tier reopening
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On Tuesday, California's public health department will release its new COVID-19 reopening guidelines. Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are expected move into the state's less-restrictive orange tier, joining San Mateo County.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Three more Bay Area counties are expected to enter the orange tier this week.

On Tuesday, the state will release new rankings. Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties are expected to move into the less-restrictive orange tier, joining San Mateo County.

MORE: Map shows which counties can, can't reopen under reopening tiers

In Downtown San Jose, the spring air is carrying with it a hint of cautious optimism.

"It was a dark winter," Nate LeBlanc, Business Development Manager at San Jose Downtown Association told ABC7 News. "Now we're kind of moving out of that phase. It literally turned spring the other day and now, there's flowers on the trees, the sun is out. And maybe we're finally, truly rounding a corner on the pandemic."

RELATED: San Francisco likely days away from less restrictive orange tier -- here's what could change

The anticipated move to the orange tier should bring expanded indoor capacity. Offices may reopen for up to 25% of the workforce, as with gyms as well.

RELATED: How will San Francisco's downtown Financial District bring employees back to work in high-rise offices?

Restaurants, movie theaters, museums and other destinations can expect increased occupancy up to 50%.

Another major change impacts bars without normal food service.

"It was hard to find reasons to allow people to just drink in bars - especially that don't serve food - that just operated as bars. So I think a path forward for them to reopen safely will be tremendously important," LeBlanc added. "Just to kind of get some people back to work, get the cash register ringing again, bring people together again."

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For bar owners, this means finally being able to take on outdoor-only service.

Temple Bar and Lounge Owner, Tin Le, told ABC7 News he has had to partner with a boba business to keep Temple afloat.

"We actually are sharing space with Tiger Milk Boba. So we are selling boba during the day so there is some kind of energy during the day," Le added.

While he plans to reopen under limited hours, Le said this move is giving him hope.

"It feels like more of a light at the end of the tunnel," Le continued. "So people are optimistic that this will probably be the last shutdown, hopefully, that we all have to endure this year."

But Downtown San Jose is nowhere close to resembling what was once considered "normal."

In the Capital of Silicon Valley, President and CEO of Team San Jose, John LaFortune, explained there have been more than 80 cancelled conventions since COVID-19 hit.

"Last year, we had over 80, cancellations just in the convention center alone, and the four theaters that we do run, we've had a couple 100 cancellations," LaFortune shared.

He added, the lack of state guidance for similar venues is proving to be bad for business. Normally, large events have the potential to attract millions of people to Downtown San Jose.

In a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, dated March 3rd, more than 130 destinations and partners within California's broader tourism industry called for direction. 'Visit San Jose' was included.

"Every other state released protocols and has been safely holding meetings during the pandemic, but California has prohibited meetings of any size since the state's stay at home order went into effect on March 19, 2020," the letter read. "This is why it is critical your administration immediately release guidelines for the safe, future reopening of business meetings, events, and conventions."

LaFortune explained, "These large events are booked 1, 2, 3 years in advance. And if we don't have the guidelines, and other states do, that puts us at a disadvantage competitively for sure."

"We're hoping to see action very quickly, because we are the only state without those guidelines," he added.