SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Restaurant owners on the Central Coast are hoping the new eased up mask mandate rules for inside areas including dining rooms, will encourage a return of a full flow of business.
Joe's Cafe Manager Joey Somerville said, "I think it is going to take a little bit of time for people to get used to it and then they will feel more comfortable comin' back in."
Nearby owner Gene Montessano was shaking hands with customers at various tables and at the bar.
It's expected to be a slow ramp up with many members of the public still looking at the COVID 19 numbers cautiously.
"Yea I think it is probably safe as long as the numbers are low I think it's dropping by about 50 percent a day," said Harold Crawford while walking the State Street promenade. "I think it is better for better for business and better for the people."
Restaurant customer Jaime Gomez said, "I think everybody will be happy getting rid of the masks and there are some areas where you can enter with a mask and you can't enter without a mask, I think it's get old after awhile."
His wife Rita said, "I am going to continue to wear my mask out in public unlike him (Jaime) I don't have a real issue with the mask."
Health officials have urged the public to keep their masks with them in case they get into situations where they feel unsafe due to crowds or areas with poor ventilation.
The Santa Barbara County numbers are going down, but the level of the coronavirus is still higher than it was in December, according to a presentation to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon.
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During the pandemic, the strict rules required workers to be responsible for enforcement in many cases. That has been uncomfortable and there have been conflicts.
The California Restaurant Association says the COVID crisis has been a huge impact on the business. The restaurants that existed prepandemic compared to now could be 20 percent less.
They also say workers who used to be near restaurants for lunch, dinner and after work gatherings are not around in the same numbers. Some are working at home, and some are no longer working at all.
The industry is also battling employee shortages, food inflation, and supply chain issues.
There has also been an uncertain flow pattern for some restaurants with fluctuating hours and in some cases closing on some days of the week when they used to be open.
All of the changes have been overdue for Roseanne Crawford who said, "I am tired of the heavy talk down politics and they should have been following the numbers and it has been way too political from the beginning."
For many who have wanted the mask rules to be dropped for months, this was a time to look ahead.
Peter McCorkle enjoyed a meal outside and said, "let's be positive let's be happy and let's move forward and past this stuff."
This comes at a good time for an economic recovery plan too.
Somerville said, "The Film Festival is a couple weeks away so this will be a nice lead up to the Film Festival and by the time the film festival arrives, everyone will used to the fact that we don't have to wear a mask anymore."
For more information about the COVID rules go to: Santa Barbara County Public Health