Kura Revolving Sushi in Little Tokyo. (Photo by ELLEN ENDO/Rafu Shimpo)


Outdoor dining returned to the Los Angeles County on Friday after a two-month shutdown, but with a new restriction forcing restaurants to turn off or remove all televisions from customer seating areas — a clear effort to prevent gatherings of sports fans.

The Little Tokyo Business Association welcomed the reopening of outdoor dining following a two-month shutdown.

Mike Okamoto, LTBA president, said, “It is gratifying to see activity return to the streets of Little Tokyo over the weekend. The past year has been extremely difficult for so many of the restaurants, shops, and other businesses in our community.

“We are so happy to see outdoor dining reopen and grateful to the merchants, restaurants, retail shops, and other businesses for following public health regulations and protocols. Their diligence has made reinstatement of outdoor dining possible. We are also thankful to the many community organizations and individuals that helped in this effort.”

LTBA expressed gratitude to community organizations, including the Little Tokyo Community Council and Japanese Restaurant Association, as well as Brian Kito, James Okazaki, and Susan Oiwake of Honda Plaza, who have helped preserve and sustain the local small business community.

“Since its founding in 1884, Little Tokyo survived numerous challenges and setbacks, ranging from economic to political, and we are confident that our community will emerge from this pandemic as vibrant as ever,” Okamoto stated.

The county’s revised Health Officer Order reinstates previous restrictions on outdoor dining: requiring servers to wear masks and face shields, limiting restaurants to 50% of patio capacity, limiting tables to no more than six people from the same household, and requiring tables to be at least eight feet apart.

But the order also states: “Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off. This provision is effective until further notice.”

The provision is directly aimed at preventing gatherings of sports fans, particularly with the Super Bowl approaching on Feb. 7.

Tsujita Artisan Noodles in Sawtelle Japantown. (Photo by ELLEN ENDO/Rafu Shimpo)

Even as restaurants are now open for outdoor dining, public health officials urged the public to remain vigilant to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Although some restrictions were just lifted in our county, we are still in a very dangerous period in terms of cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday. “We all want our businesses currently operating to remain open and more to reopen safely in the future. Our case rates must continue to come down.

“One way to do that is for everyone to follow all of the public health recommendations and directives all of the time. Because some sectors have reopened, it doesn’t mean that the risk for community transmission has gone away; it hasn’t, and each of us needs to make very careful choices about what we do and how we do it. This virus is strong, and we are now concerned about variants and what these will mean in our region.”

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