SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Restaurant owners and patrons were happy to hear that indoor dining is returning to Santa Clara County for the first time in months, even if only at 25 percent capacity to start.

The announcement came Tuesday as the county moved from a red to a less restrictive orange tier under the state’s COVID-19 guidelines.

“I want to open with the 25 percent right now and then progress from there. I want to go slow and make sure everyone’s doing it right,” said Sal Martinez, the general manager of the Farmer’s Union restaurant in downtown San Jose.

After seven months with the dining room closed, he is going by the book on the county’s guidelines to safely reopen inside.

“I don’t want to get shut down again,” Martinez said.

Santa Clara County’s move from the red tier to orange also will now allow indoor gatherings of no more than 100 people.

“Churches will be allowed to happen indoor, church services, movie theatres, and all of the other gatherings allowed under the state,” said County Counsel James Williams.

Mike Messinger was about to open Blanco, a new banquet hall in San Pedro Square when the shutdown began. His staff is now prepping the properly spaced tables for the venue’s first guests.

“It’s very crucial to get this going inside, especially with the weather changing. It makes the project work finally,” Messinger said.

Many restaurants have been able to survive on outdoor dining. The new order will mean a few more people can be hired, but it’s not going to bring restaurants back to where they were.

“It’s a great start, but 25 percent is a low number. We hope to be able to get back to 100 percent eventually,” said David Mulvehill of O’Flaherty’s restaurant and bar.

But even with the restrictions loosening up, some diners will still prefer to eat outside.

“I personally don’t think I will be dining indoors any time soon. We have the best weather so I’m going to stay outside,” said Laura Moreno. She told KPIX she had a family member who died this year of COVID-19.

There will likely be an initial grace period as restaurants and other venues adjust to the new rules for indoor operation.

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