California Introduces 4-tiered Plan to Reopen Businesses With Varied Restrictions

a couple walks by a restaurant's outdoor seating

California has announced a four-tiered, color-coded system for reopening businesses across the state, based on COVID-19 levels within each county.

The “Blueprint For a Safer Economy” went into effect on Monday and will impact the reopening methods of multiple industries, including restaurants and hotels.

Each tier is determined by the number of new cases reported in each county and the positivity percentage in testing. When a county meets the tier requirements for three consecutive weeks, it is allowed to proceed to the next. The tiers are purple, red, orange, and yellow, with purple being the highest number of COVID-19 cases and strictest restrictions.

Hotels are allowed to operate at all four tiers, although each has mandatory service modifications. As the county progresses through the tiers, hotels are allowed to reopen their fitness centers with limited capacity. Indoor pools and spa facilities can reopen at the orange and yellow tiers, respectively.

Restaurants are also allowed to operate throughout the four tiers, although at strictest limitations they can only offer outdoor dining. At the red tier, restaurants can open indoors with 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. At the orange tier, that progresses to 50 percent capacity or 200 people.

Wineries and bars operate under different regulations. Bars and breweries that are not serving food are not allowed to reopen until counties reach the orange and yellow tiers. Wineries can operate outdoors and begin opening indoors with limited capacity at the orange and yellow tiers.

Retail is allowed to operate within all tiers, although capacity restrictions lift and counties report fewer COVID-19 numbers. Museums, zoos, and aquariums are permitted to reopen in the red tier, with capacity restrictions.

California has not established a green tier, which would allow life to return to pre-COVID-19 routines.

“We don’t believe that there is a green light,” Gov. Newsom said during a press conference last week, “which says go back to the way things were or back to the pre-pandemic mindset.” The state considers it unlikely that “normal life” will return before the end of the year.

Most counties in the state are currently operating at the purple (the most restrictive) tier.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at

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