Limited opening: Some La Jolla businesses open indoors with reduced capacity after getting OK

Equipment is spaced out at La Jolla Sports Club, where exercise is now permitted indoors at limited capacity.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The response in La Jolla to state and county officials’ announcement last week allowing some San Diego County businesses to operate indoors at limited capacity has been as diverse as the businesses themselves.

Starting Aug. 31, restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and museums are allowed to maintain up to 25 percent occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less. Gyms may operate with 10 percent occupancy. Nail and hair salons and barbershops may operate indoors with normal capacity.

Retail businesses are restricted to 50 percent occupancy.

All indoor businesses still must abide by social distancing and face-covering mandates, as well as having a detailed Safe Reopening Plan on file with the county.

For locations such as gyms, churches and restaurants, the past few months have been a dizzying cycle of closing, then opening outdoors, then opening indoors at reduced capacity.

New to this reopening plan are museums, aquariums and movie theaters.

In La Jolla, some of the affected businesses and organizations were open bright and early Aug. 31; others were taking their time with reopening.


La Jolla Sports Club owner Brett Murphy said his club was open at 10 percent capacity at 5 a.m. and greeting “a good amount of clients.”

The arrangement in the club is “the exact same as we had when we reopened in June/July. It is super clean and spaced out,” he said. “We had to [forgo] classes until we can figure out what our capacity is going to look like going forward. It is like trying to hit a moving target, but we will make it happen.”

Life Time La Jolla announced it would reopen Sept. 1 at 10 percent capacity. Group fitness classes start Sept. 2. Masks must be worn unless clients are participating in a cardio exercise or a group fitness class.

Life Time will conduct touchless thermal temperature checks for all club and team members entering the venue, spokesman Manuel Cedeno said. Studio, yoga and cycle classes will be conducted on a reservation-only basis via the website or app to ensure ample space. Guests initially will not be allowed.

In July, gyms were allowed to take their operations outdoors, and at Orangetheory Fitness, open-air classes in front of the facility have gone so well that management is maintaining that rather than go indoors at the reduced capacity.

“We had to pivot quickly and develop a plan to operate our business by offering outdoor classes,” said owner Billy Borja. “After receiving our outdoor permit from the city, we offered free trial classes at our Orangetheory Fitness La Jolla studio, and [on] Aug. 31, we’ve begun our live classes for active members.”

Members can book a space in a class and must wear a mask on arrival (they do not have to wear them during class).

“Between classes, we completely clean and disinfect every piece of equipment,” Borja said. “At the end of each day, we take all of our equipment into the studio and bring it out the next morning.”


Though the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s materials have been available for curbside pickup, the gallery itself will be “open within a week,” according to Erika Torri, the Joan & Irwin Jacobs executive director for Athenaeum.

“We have gone through the guidelines once before at the beginning of July when we wanted to open on July 7, had followed all rules and were ready. [Then] on July 6, new guidelines came out for institutions to close completely again and for staff to work from home,” she said. “We put posters out then and have those still up and have all necessary equipment, like extra masks, a thermometer, marking for social distancing, a waiver, etc., available. We just have to meet with the staff and discuss the best day to open.”

Upcoming exhibitions, lectures and concerts will be online, and some exhibits will be open for smaller groups and by reservation.

“We will present an exhibition with Zandra Rhodes paintings and drawings in the gallery, starting by the end of September, but the exhibition will only be open by invitation, for small groups; people can call in and make a reservation,” Torri said. “We hope everybody comes back, even if programs are online and not live. But I am glad we might be moving in that direction of normalcy. We missed our members.”

Meanwhile, the La Jolla Historical Society is “in the process of evaluating the new public health directive and its application to our operations” for its Wisteria Cottage Gallery, said Executive Director Heath Fox. “We have not set a reopening date, either for the gallery or public access for archival research. The society remains closed to the public until further notice.”

Aquarium and movie theater

La Jolla’s lone aquarium, Birch, plans to reopen Tuesday, Sept. 15, and will announce details next week, marketing director Beth Downing Chee said Sept. 1.

However, The Village’s lone movie theater, The Lot, will be opening this week with “safety precautions, augmented cleaning and social distancing in our auditoriums,” marketing manager Eduardo Rozen said. “We will be showing ‘Tenet’ and ‘Unhinged’ to start.”


Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church implemented the new reopening rules Aug. 31, as its weekday crowds are normally smaller compared with weekends. Saturday and Sunday Masses will remain outdoors.

“We will take advantage of the new rules to offer a hybrid of choices for our parishioners and visitors,” the Rev. Pat Mulcahy said. “Some prefer to be in the church and others prefer the larger open space of the outdoors. We are trying to meet the needs of a large variety of peoples’ preferences.”

At La Jolla Presbyterian Church, no decision had been made about reopening, but church elders will meet later this week to discuss it, pastor Paul Cunningham said. “It is encouraging to see that churches in San Diego now have the option of returning to their places of worship,” he said.

At St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, the Rev. Mark Hargreaves said the church would resume services on its patio space outside on Sunday, Sept. 6.

All Hallows Catholic, Mount Soledad Presbyterian and La Jolla United Methodist churches did not respond to requests for comment.


Piatti restaurant in La Jolla Shores is opening its indoor space for dining Wednesday, Sept. 2. Manager Tom Spano said Piatti won’t take reservations for its indoor tables — which total eight in accord with capacity guidelines — until after Labor Day. Currently, Piatti offers 30 tables outside as part of The Shores’ outdoor dining program, for which it does take reservations.

Nine-Ten, inside the Grande Colonial Hotel, also is reopening its dining room Sept. 2. “We will continue with dinner service only, Wednesday through Sunday,” said marketing director Leslie Araiza-Lorenzo. Outdoor seating will remain in place on the sidewalk, terrace and poolside.

The dining room of Nine-Ten restaurant is reopening Sept. 2 at limited capacity.
The dining room of Nine-Ten restaurant is reopening Sept. 2 at limited capacity.

Sylvie Diot, owner of Bistro du Marché, said the restaurant will open its indoor dining space in mid-September. “It seems the outdoor dining experience has been rewarding on a health point of view, and we want to keep it this way for a little longer.”

George’s at the Cove, which has had its outdoor Ocean Terrace restaurant open since outdoor dining was allowed, opened its Level2 indoor space Aug. 31, according to partner and chef Trey Foshee. The California Modern portion may reopen soon for private parties, though Foshee said he is still working on the details.

Catania’s marketing director, Carissa Grubbs, said the restaurant is “not going to launch indoor dining right away; we’re going to assess the situation and keep the outdoor patio for now.”

Cody’s La Jolla and The Marine Room did not respond to inquiries about reopening indoors. ◆