New guidelines take effect today
After more than a year full of restrictions, masking and stay-home orders, the fateful day has arrived.
Today, the state is fully reopening its economy by ditching the tier system and rolling out a revised set of guidelines for masking and social distancing.
As of today, the state has lifted all capacity and social distancing restrictions and updated its mask guidance, declaring that fully vaccinated individuals can go maskless in most settings. Conversely, those who are not fully vaccinated are still expected to wear a mask in all indoor and public settings.
With the updated guidelines now in effect, business owners on State Street are welcoming the new guidance with some long-awaited operational changes.
M. Special Brewing Co., located in the 600 block of State Street, will now be operating at 100% capacity in both its indoor and outdoor spaces. The bar, which opened its State Street location in September 2020, has never had the chance to operate at full capacity or utilize barstool seating.
But that changes today.
“We’re really excited because we’ve never seen what (the bar) is intended to look like,” Josh Ellis, brewmaster and co-founder of M. Special told the News-Press Monday. “We built this bar to have people sitting there drinking beer. So we’re really excited to see what this place looks like when it’s realizing its potential. It’s been a long time coming.”
During the pandemic, Mr. Ellis said utilizing the bar’s outdoor patio and parklet were “critical” for the bar’s survival. And even though more people will be allowed to drink indoors under the state’s new guidance, he said he doesn’t expect to see many changes in terms of the number of customers at his establishment.
“I don’t imagine that (the bar) will look too terribly different than it did on Friday night or Saturday night, other than there’ll be people sitting at the bar,” Mr. Ellis said. “Hopefully I can get a few more people, but we have a lot of space here.”
In addition to the change in capacity, Mr. Ellis said that starting today, he plans to make masks optional for vaccinated guests.
“Until there’s a framework in place for verifying vaccinations, or until it is the mandate that we have to do that, I really don’t have any intentions of asking people to verify their vaccination,” Mr. Ellis said. “I’m going to trust our guests to be responsible and be safe because I want everyone to stay healthy.”
Other business owners on State Street are also getting ready to fully embrace the state’s new guidelines in their establishments.
Arnold Buckner, a member of the co-op at Antique Alley, said masks will be completely optional for fully vaccinated patrons visiting the store. While the pandemic made it difficult at times to find inventory for the shop, Mr. Buckner said business has been booming. He expects that the store will remain busy as restrictions are lifted.
“(Business) is better than ever, it really is,” Mr. Buckner told the News-Press. “On the weekends, we’re jammed, very busy.”
While some businesses plan to embrace the new restrictions in full force, some businesses are planning to take a more phased approach.
James Haskins, the owner of Tondi Gelato in the 600 block of State Street, said because the area for customers is only about 10 square feet, his store plans to continue the social distancing aspect of only having one or two parties in the place at one time.
He added that the store will align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for masking and “leave it up to the goodwill of customers” to attest their vaccination status.
“I’ve always been pro-mask this entire pandemic, I’ve been very precautious (with) everything,” Mr. Haskins told the News-Press Monday. “But I think… (this is) a significant symbolic point, and June 15 for California, we’re opening up.”
“If I had a different type of setup, if we had a different store, we would probably ask customers to continue to wear a mask while in the store until maybe more data comes out or federal guidelines come out from the state,” he added. “But we have a space that is literally 10 square feet of sales floor area. So if you’re coming in, you’re basically outside.”
Since opening in April, Mr. Haskins said his gelato shop has been busy. As he looks toward the summer, he expects to see business remain on the uptick.
“In regards to being open for business during the pandemic, we’ve been busy,” Mr. Haskins told the News-Press. “We’ve been doing really pretty well. We make good products, we have really good service, we’re a mom and pop shop, and we have a good location. So that definitely helps.
“But I can say in the last few weeks as we approach summer and the reopening of California, we definitely have been picking up even more so.”