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After 25 years, Gail Heilig was back at The Sunset Restaurant on Monday, its first indoor dining customer in months. Scott Steepleton/Surfside News photos
Chairs at The Sunset are spaced as deemed safe under red-tier rules that went into effect on Monday.
Scott Steepleton, Editor
6:53 pm PDT March 15, 2021

With COVID-19 cases on the decline in Los Angeles County a year after the first lockdown, restaurant diners on Monday returned to a place they haven’t seen in months: the great indoors.

It’s all because the county is now officially in the red tier, the second to the worst in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening plan. While there is still substantial infection in the county, deaths, cases and hospitalizations are down.

Under red-tier guidelines, gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios can open indoors at 10 percent capacity and retail and personal care services can increase capacity to 50 percent, with masks required at all times.

Restaurants, which have been barred from serving indoors for months, are now allowed to serve indoors again at up to 25 percent of their normal operating capacity. Tables must be at least 8 feet apart; there can be only one household per table with a limit of six people.

In addition, the heating/air conditioning system must be in good working order and, to the maximum extent possible, ventilation must be increased.

Marmalade Cafe, which has been serving in the Malibu Village parking lot under umbrellas and, in inclement weather, a tent, was serving breakfast indoors to a crowd eager to escape the morning wind and cold.

Across town at The Sunset Restaurant, Santa Monica resident Grace Heilig was the first indoor diner, treating a longtime friend from Ventura to a birthday lunch.

The get-together marked Heilig’s first visit to The Sunset in about 25 years.

“I used to live right up here, on Point Dume,” she told Surfside News, a bottle of something wrapped in birthday paper under her arm. “This was a very different place then. This was a nightclub-like place years ago.”

“But I know the area and I’m very happy to be back.”

As Heilig waited for the friend to arrive, she marveled at the good fortune of being able to be indoors for a special occasion on such a blustery day.

“We thought we’d be eating outside,” she said. “We didn’t know it was going to be a hurricane, so this is really very nice.”

Public health officials on Monday announced 422 new COVID cases in Los Angeles County, along with six new deaths attributed to the virus.

Malibu has seen 379 cases and seven deaths.

City Manager Reva Feldman said as long as restaurants are adhering to the county health order and are in compliance with Malibu planning and building code requirements, they can re-open.

Geoffrey’s was not affected by Monday's changes. Because of its open-air design, the Pacific Coast Highway restaurant has already been operating at 50 percent capacity.

Tramonto Bistro was among those eateries welcoming customers indoors again on Monday. 

At Duke’s Malibu, manager Jimmy Chavez told Surfside News on Monday that indoor dining is back.

“We're planning to start tomorrow,” he said.