ANGELS () –
When Angeleno Wine Co. reopening her tasting room, co-owner Amy Luftig Viste tore to see old friends who had met for the first time since the pandemic had closed so many businesses that capitals looked like ghost towns.
Even with limited speed, animated conversations streamed from tables placed between barrels of aging wine and bounced off the brick walls of wineries hidden in an industrial area on the edge of downtown Los Angeles.
“It was as if the winery had come to life again,” Luftig Viste said on Sunday, the day after it was reopened after being closed for almost two weeks in the last 13 months.
Din in a small space is destined to step up when it is allowed to double the speed to 50%, as Los Angeles and San Francisco lead to a wider reopening of California businesses.
The state’s signature cities are likely to be the only major urban areas in the state on Tuesday to meet virus thresholds for the least restrictive level, allowing reopening of indoor bars, larger crowds to encourage Major League Baseball Dodgers and Giants, and increased speed in restaurants, cinemas, theme parks , gyms and other facilities.
This is a remarkable turnaround, given that California was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the United States just a few months ago.
Both cities have weathered the pandemic differently, but empty streets, closed shops and restaurants and darkened office buildings are appearing in the same place after a nationwide shutdown in March 2020.
While San Francisco largely defeated the coronavirus by avoiding it, Los Angeles nearly defeated it during the winter boom. At worst, California killed more than 500 people a day, and hospitals in the LA area could barely treat the huge influx of patients.
San Francisco reached the least restrictive yellow layer for a short time in October, the only urban area to do so before an alarming increase in cases forced a retreat. LA did not emerge from the strictest level until March.
California now has the lowest case rate in the country. Los Angeles County, home to a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people and a disproportionate number of 60,000 state deaths, did not record a single COVID-19 death on Sunday or Monday.
As spring warms, highways are congested, workers return to offices, and people head to restaurants and breweries.
On Sunday, in an art district in downtown LA, drivers circled the block looking for parking spaces. The diners filled the Wurstküche sidewalks, ate sausages and drank Belgian and German beer. A line of people waited down the street waiting for a table at Angel City Brewery.
Chris Sammons said he felt a civic duty to get out and support businesses.
“I feel almost obliged to keep in touch with the city,” Sammons said. “We have to bring LA back to life.”
It was the first time for his friend Stephen Tyler, who said he was thrilled to be hunched over and vaccinated for so long.
“It’s just good to be in town again, to be among people,” Tyler said. “I don’t care if I’m standing in line either.” It’s all new again. ”
In San Francisco, the store has expanded to Mixt, a favorite lunch spot for salad lovers in the financial district. But it’s not on a pre-pandemic level when the lines spill out, said Leslie Silverglide, co-founder and CEO of the chain. He plans to open two more stores in the city center in the coming weeks.
“It seems like people are coming back,” she said. “They’re excited to have lunch with colleagues again.”
Fear of catching the virus has caused a huge drop in public transport. Jason Alderman said he felt like a child the first day of school on a commuter train to San Francisco. He is working to launch Fast payments online, which reopened its headquarters as soon as San Francisco authorized it at the end of March.
“Instead of feeling like an excavated ghost town that people quickly left, it felt like there were green shoots of life,” he said. “I felt the pungent energy that used to be there.”
When the lock order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for San Francisco companies, including Google, Facebook and Uber, seemed to disappear overnight.
Moving vans took households to more spacious suburban homes, and younger people simply packed up their cars and left because they could work from anywhere. Residential rents have fallen, but are now rising.
San Francisco’s vacancy rate is 18%, compared to 10% a year earlier, said John Chang, senior vice president of Marcus & Millich, a commercial real estate financing and advisory firm. In Los Angeles, vacancies are 17.5% compared to 13.5% a year earlier.
It is more likely that only 14% of key cards are used to enter offices in San Francisco, compared to 24% in LA. At the other end of the spectrum is Dallas, where data shows that 41% of the cards are used, reflecting different approaches to the virus in the two states.
Chang said workers suddenly left San Francisco when the original shutdown order came into force. He expects the return to be slower.
Lisa Elder, a trainee who has worked in her office since July, said that even with some restaurants and cafes, reopening the area is a shadow of her former self.
“Before COVID packed this place, there would be a lot of people in the alley to eat, and now it’s like, quiet.” It’s crazy, “she said.
At Angeleno Wine, Luftig Viste said most of her customers had been vaccinated and all were excited to be out again.
“I’m honored to be a place where people come to break the seal when we start coming out again,” she said.
Har reported from San Francisco. Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this report from San Francisco.