State approves L.A. County’s variance to reopen, grooming and dine-in service now allowed

Owner, Simon Mee describes the QR menu ordering system and the social distancing table arraignment in the Newhall Refinery dinning room in Newhall on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Los Angeles County entered a new phase Friday in its roadmap toward reopening after receiving the state’s green light to open barbershops and hair salons once again and resume in-person dining, officials said. 

Entering Phase 3 comes after Los Angeles County, through a motion brought forth by county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, applied for a variance to allow for local communities to expedite reopening, which was granted Friday, according to Barger spokeswoman Michelle Vega. 

Restaurants, barbershops react to latest reopening guidelines

“This approval by the state enables the county to immediately allow for the safe reopening of in-person dining, hair salons, and barbershops — further bringing our communities together and resuming to a sense of normalcy,” Barger said in a statement, adding that on Tuesday, guidelines on how to safely reopen those in the sectors of sports venues, theme parks, corporate businesses and manufacturing and film and digital media would be released. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday the state — now in its reopening Phase 3 of 4 — is not “mandating a pace for opening.” 

“We are allowing local decision making to go into effect but it’s conditioned on plans that have to be attested to by local, county, electeds, and local health officials and through a process of engagement with the state,” he said. 

L.A. County, which now joins most counties across the state in resuming restaurant and grooming services, made its case for reopening through regional data depicting a flattened curve and in ensuring adequate hospital capacity and increased access to testing and contact tracing, according to Barger. In California, Los Angeles County has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis as it surpassed 51,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,200 deaths by Friday. 

A safe reopening will largely depend on continued safety measures businesses and consumers alike will have to follow, county officials have said. 

“Our ability to continue on the path of reopening will depend on our adherence to physical distancing and face-covering guidelines to ensure we are able to protect the public health of our residents,” Barger said. 

News of the granted variance was greatly welcomed in the city of Santa Clarita as the countywide effort first started on a regional level, with three cities — Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale — looking to start a coalition and ask for an expedited reopening. 

“What started as a discussion with my wife and I sitting on my couch, talking about how to do a regional variance that, you know, ended up developing into a countywide ordinance is more than I had expected or certainly the City Council when we started this process, but so much credit belongs with Supervisor Barger for carrying this to the county,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth. 

The decision to apply for the countywide variance was a wise decision to support small businesses across the region, not just in Santa Clarita, and to improve each communities’ economies, Smyth added. 

“You saw L.A. County residents leaving the county to go to dinner outside of the county, whether that was to Orange County, Kern, San Bernardino or Ventura, and that was really unfair to our local businesses,” he said. 

Grooming and dine-in services are the latest to join a wave of other sectors, such as indoor shopping and houses of worship, recently allowed to resume operations after the monthslong Safer at Home shutdown. 

Newsom said California is not yet ready to enter phase four, which would be allowing concerts, festivals, other large conventions and reopening outdoor stadiums for sporting events. On Wednesday, the governor said the fitness industry could expect to hear guidelines “within a week or so.” 

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