By Da Lin

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Many businesses in the East Bay are preparing to operate indoors as early as Wednesday. Alameda and Solano County health officials believe that, if their current COVID case numbers continue to trend down, the governor on Tuesday will move them into the red tier.

“We’re finally going to get back to some normalcy,” said Kyle Conner, who owns the Alameda Theatre and the Cinema Grill restaurant next door. “The restaurant, we’re now probably got about 25 percent, maybe 30 percent of our staff back in place. We’ll probably get it up to close to 50 percent once we get indoor dining opened.”

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He said it’s easy to reopen indoor dining from a logistical standpoint but it’s a lot more complicated for a theater. Even if the governor allows indoor theaters to reopen starting on Wednesday, it’ll still take Conner a few more weeks to open up.

“Got to gear up all the staffing,” he explained. “The second part of it is there’s got to be movies to play and, right now, there’s not a lot of movies to play.”

Since last summer, Conner has been operating a drive-in theater at the old naval base. It’s sold out almost every weekend. He planned to keep operating the drive-in and open Alameda Theatre around late March or early April.

“The sad thing is I think for the first four to six months, we’ll probably lose more money with the theater being opened than we’re losing being closed because we’ll be limited to 25 percent capacity,” Conner said.

Many people said they couldn’t wait to eat inside.

“I’m vaccinated myself so I feel safe personally,” said Patricio Chavez, an Alameda resident.

Others are still worried about their safety.

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“Once everybody has their mask off and we’re in an enclosed space, I’m not ready yet. More people will need to be vaccinated before that’s OK with me,” said Alameda resident Claire Bonde.

“I’m not ready to put myself at risk at this point,” added Toni Bonde.

Aside from restaurants and movie theaters, Terrell Elliott, who owns Body Mechanix, an Oakland gymnasium, said it has been tough mentally and financially not being able to use his facility. His gym’s few remaining members work out in a small, outdoor patio.

“We pretty much lost probably 80 percent of our clientele,” said Elliott.

If Alameda and Solano Counties shift to the red tier this week, Elliott would be able to reopen his gym at 10 percent capacity. Restaurants and theaters would be allowed indoors with 25 percent capacity.

“A few months ago, I was sort of stressed out but I’m more optimistic right now. I believe that we’re going to do well and I’m excited, I’m ready to get my family back in here, my members,” Elliott said.

Elliott said it may take years for him to bring his membership back to the pre-pandemic level but he’s ready for the heavy lifting.

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“We have faith that things will clear up and we’ll get back to where we were before,” said Elliott.