San Bernardino County businesses may approach normal beginning Wednesday, April 7, as the county moves to the orange tier of the state coronavirus reopening plan.
The transition from the red tier, which the county entered on March 14, after months at the more restrictive purple tier, comes thanks to a change in the way the state calculates those tiers.
The consequences are the same. Among other changes, bars that do not serve food can open outdoors, bowling alleys can open at 25% capacity, breweries and wineries can open indoors with modifications, and other businesses can increase their capacity.
Because 4 million people have been vaccinated statewide in the areas with the greatest socioeconomic challenges, the state activated new, easier requirements to enter a new level. San Bernardino County has been at the recently required rate, fewer than six new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, for more than the required two weeks.
The county is making good progress, Curt Hagman, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, said during Tuesday’s meeting, before revealing the change a little earlier than state officials had wanted.
“We’re not supposed to announce this for another hour, sorry Sacramento – we’ll be orange tomorrow,” he said.
Riverside County will also enter the orange level on Wednesday.
Also Tuesday, state officials said the entire state should be able to resume pre-pandemic operating levels starting June 15, provided cases and hospitalizations remain stable until then.
For Erin Rivera, owner of Frugal Frigate children’s bookstore in Redlands, the move to the orange category won’t change much for her business, but a new reopening in June gives her hope for in-person story times again.
“I don’t want to reopen (story time) and have the kids get sick because they can’t get vaccinated,” he said by phone Tuesday. “I couldn’t live with myself.”
Storytime times moved online in March 2020, when Rivera introduced phone ordering and curbside pickup. The store reopened in May with limited capacity.
“I’m very excited for the summer, because I think we are going to continue in the right direction, at least I hope so,” Rivera said.
He said the Redlands community has rallied around local small businesses, leading to a great holiday season that “helped end the year on a good note after several months of concern.”
With things opening up and more people getting vaccinated, Rivera said he’s seeing an increase in foot traffic.
“Our days are a little busier now,” he said. “It has been nice. It was very nice. “
He said the store has found creative ways to make it work during the pandemic with virtual story times and in-store and online book fairs for local schools.
“Looking ahead, I can’t wait to have story time in store, hopefully this summer, and maybe some author events as well,” he said.
Lars Bennett, owner of Rök House Brewing Co. in Upland, reserved a quadruple India Pale Ale called Sledge Hammer for a special occasion. He will release it on Saturday.
“It’s appropriate because it’s a bit orange,” he said in a telephone interview.
Rök House offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
“It’s a big problem,” he said of San Bernardino County’s move to the orange level. “We can finally have a little more space inside.”
Interestingly, Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement about the state’s full reopening on June 15.
“We’ll see if it really happens.”
Bowling alleys, which are allowed on the orange level, satisfy the hunger for indoor entertainment, said Eugene Moyer, manager of Big Al’s in Ontario.
Big Al’s also has a sports bar and restaurant, which can increase its capacity from 25% to 50%.
“I think it’s going to be a slow climb,” Moyer said. “We’ve been waiting for entertainment to return, and I think that’s where we’ll see the payoff.”
The bowling experience will be a bit different, with middle lanes between groups, but people can still rent equipment, including bowling shoes. Moyer said they are sanitized inside and out after each use.
Staff Writers Jennifer Iyer and Fielding Buck contributed to this report.