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Is June 15 the day La Jolla returns to normal? Not quite

The Cottage restaurant on Fay Avenue in La Jolla will not increase tables to full capacity for several months.
The Cottage restaurant on Fay Avenue in La Jolla will not increase tables to full capacity for several months, owner Jason Peaslee says.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

With California dropping its COVID-19 tier system and most mask requirements, many local businesses and organizations say guests won’t have to mask up but some pandemic practices will remain for now.

For some businesses in La Jolla, June 15 can’t come soon enough. That’s the day California will drop most mask requirements and its COVID-19 color-coded tier system, and capacity and distancing restrictions will be lifted for most businesses and activities.

Effective Tuesday, Californians who are two weeks removed from their final dose of vaccine will be allowed to go mask-free in most settings, with exceptions including transit hubs and public transportation (including airplanes and trains); health care and long-term care facilities; indoors at K-12 schools, child care facilities and other youth settings; homeless shelters, emergency shelters and correctional facilities.

To celebrate the state’s planned lifting of COVID-19-related restrictions and the 39 businesses that have opened in The Village since the start of the pandemic, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association will hold a giant ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, June 15, with festivities starting at 4 p.m.

While some might be hoping to echo the cap tossing at recent high school graduations with a ceremonial throwing of masks in the air, some enterprises in La Jolla are awaiting confirmation and more direction on nebulous recommendations from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, and on San Diego County guidelines.

A Cal/OSHA proposal last week to no longer require fully vaccinated employees to wear masks while on the job, consistent with recommendations by federal and state health officials, will be presented at a meeting Thursday, June 17, and could go into effect by Monday, June 28, once it’s reviewed by the state Office of Administrative Law. It would affect most workplace settings, with exceptions including health care sites.

The proposal differs from what the workplace safety panel had recommended a week earlier, which would have allowed workers to take off their masks only if every person in the room was fully vaccinated and did not have COVID-19 symptoms.

The board changed its stance following backlash from business representatives who argued that the more restrictive policy would be a burden and go against progress against the virus.

Cal/OSHA’s actions effectively mean that vaccinated employees will still need to mask up at workplaces until June 28, when the new proposal is expected to go into effect.

With vaccination rates up and COVID-19 cases way down, California is poised to ditch masks and social distancing, but there are still some rules and protections in place as we navigate a new pandemic landscape.

Following suit, Summer Shoemaker, general manager of La Jolla’s La Valencia Hotel, said: “There are requirements for how businesses in the service industry will operate, and we are reviewing those with the California Hotel Association and following their protocol. Right now, we think guests will be allowed to be mask-free but employees will be masked. That is the protocol right now; that is what we will be following. We will continue to add a few more tables to our dining options … so we have comfortable areas for everyone.”

LifeTime La Jolla gym owner Jo Cullen said she would be turning to Cal/OSHA for guidance but that she looks forward to “opening up more spaces and classes.”

Natalie Aguirre, manager of the J. McLaughlin clothing store, said: “We will stay masked, as most retailers I think will, because we need to protect our staff. ... Unless something changes, our customers do not have to wear masks, but we will. And we will continue our cleaning protocol.”

La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director Jodi Rudick said local updates would be posted on LJVMA’s blog at lajollabythesea.com.

Many of La Jolla’s entertainment venues will use a phased approach to ease away from previous restrictions.

At the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, where masks are required until June 15 and visits must be arranged in advance, “we need to wait to see if the county guidelines will differ from California’s total restriction lift on June 15,” according to communications director Lidia Rossner. “If not, then we will open for non-members [and] we will remove the appointment requirements to visit exhibitions. For the outdoor book sale planned for June 19, we will kindly request that people keep a respectful distance and consider wearing a mask but will not require it.”

Athenaeum management also is planning reduced capacity for its upcoming indoor events such as the summer jazz series scheduled to start July 10 and for the Flicks on the Bricks outdoor film screenings in August, but is awaiting more information before confirming.

At the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, home of the La Jolla Music Society, guests must produce proof of vaccination or a negative PCR coronavirus test within three days of a concert in order to attend. A spokesperson said it also will recommend that guests wear masks.

La Jolla Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox said the group’s Wisteria Cottage Gallery, which is currently housing the exhibit “Our Ocean’s Edge,” is awaiting state and county guidance for the June 15 transition and “will operate accordingly.”

Several of La Jolla’s restaurants, many of whom were given special permits over the past year to take their dining outdoors, also are hoping for clearer local and Cal/OSHA guidance.

Trey Foshee, who owns Galaxy Taco in The Shores and George’s at the Cove on Prospect Street, said he will not require guests at his restaurants to wear masks. He added that the ability to restore tables that were removed for social distancing depends on staffing.

“It’s really a lack of workers that is limiting our seating capacity,” Foshee said.

He said he will remove some of the partitions at George’s rooftop Ocean Terrace and that California Modern on the lower level will not reopen until September.

Wearing masks will be optional for staff and guests at The Cottage restaurant in La Jolla starting June 15.
(Courtesy of Jason Peaslee)

At The Cottage on Fay Avenue, owner Jason Peaslee said masks will be optional for both staff and guests and that he will not increase tables to full capacity for several months.

“I don’t think people are ready for that yet,” he said.

Peaslee said The Cottage will continue to operate its tables on the Fay Avenue sidewalk “until they pry them away from us.”

Megan Heine, owner of Beaumont’s in Bird Rock and Brockton Villa in The Village, said masks also will be optional for her staff and guests. She declined to comment on whether her outdoor dining areas will remain.

Reyhan Gumustekin, owner of Bernini’s Bistro on Fay Avenue, said masks will no longer be required there. The outdoor tables will stay until the city permit expires in July 2022, Gumustekin said, and the restaurant will maintain its current spacing between tables.

Local churches, many of which were hesitant to bring parishioners inside even when allowed to do so, are taking different approaches.

At La Jolla Presbyterian, where guests are worshipping indoors with masks and without capacity limitations, “we are leaving social distancing up to the people who attend our services,” said the Rev. Paul Cunningham. “Our elders decided … that we will wait until we hear the final announcement from the state of California about what opening up really looks like. We will gather on Tuesday, June 22, which was our original plan, and make decisions regarding what Sunday morning worship will look like in terms of wearing or not wearing masks. ... We want to be responsible, respectful and reasonable.”

At La Jolla United Congregational Church, the Rev. Tim Seery said worshippers likely wouldn’t return to in-person services until the fall.

“We are joyful and optimistic about the progress that California is making in its recovery from the pandemic,” he said. “We are planning a few outdoor drop-by Communion stations later in the summer in anticipation of a return to worship in our building in the fall.

“For us, this will be a restart and an adjustment into a new way of being and doing church. We think that regathering in the fall will give us the summer to adequately prepare and ensure that all of our community members can return with confidence.” ◆