After only having limited-capacity indoor dining for three short weeks since the pandemic began, restaurants in Alameda County are preparing to once again allow patrons indoors starting on Wednesday.

Both Solano and Alameda counties progressed to the "Red" tier under the state's metrics for reopening on Tuesday, joining Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties in being able to have indoor restaurants and gyms again. You may recall that in the fall, both Alameda and San Francisco counties waited until they reached "Orange" tier status in late September and early October — with Alameda County lagging a couple of weeks behind. Thus indoor dining at 25% capacity only existed in Oakland, Berkeley and other Alameda county cities from October 23 to November 17, 2020 as the late-fall surge in COVID cases was already apparent.

This time around, counties are sticking to the state's recommended guidance rather than be stricter about things, and under the state's rules, indoor dining can happen in the "Red" tier at 25% capacity, and in the "Orange" tier at 50%. San Mateo is expected to move to the "Orange" tier as soon as next week, and San Francisco is likely to get there by March 23, with metrics that already qualify for the move to "Orange" but the state requires a three-week wait between tier changes.

Sonoma and Contra Costa counties remain the last two in the Bay Area to be stuck in the "Purple" tier with only outdoor dining allowed for at least one more week.

Restaurateurs in Alameda County cities are eager to get some more revenue in the door, even if it is at limited capacity (25% or up to 100 people, whichever is less). And they're hoping we won't have a repeat of the November situation with another surge in new cases, now that so many in the county have had at least one vaccine shot. (Nearly 350,000 Alameda County residents have had their first shot, according to the latest county data.)

Mostafa Hallaji, co-owner of Original Pollo’s in downtown Berkeley, tells the Chronicle that he's lost 80% of his usual business over the last year. Of the move to indoor seating, he says, "Of course it’s going to make a big difference."

In a sign of good things to come, Oakland's Daughter's Diner, which just opened in the fall for takeout only and has since added outdoor table, announced on Instagram that it is hiring line cooks. And new restaurants are opening seemingly more than they're closing, finally — Hoodline reports that in addition to Square Pie Guys landing in Old Oakland last week, the openings of Low Bar (in the former Hawker Fare space) and Sweetgreen are on the horizon.

Gyms, museums, and movie theaters in Alameda and Solano counties can also reopen this week at limited capacity — with gyms only allowing "gentle" group activities with masks, like yoga and meditation, but no other group fitness.

Top image courtesy of Daughter's Diner