LISTEN: Scene in San Diego Podcast – Orange Tier, More Pandemic Debuts & What's Cookin' at USD

Monica Garske, lead editor of NBC 7's The Scene, and Candice Woo, founding editor of Eater San Diego, talk about San Diego’s food scene in these times of COVID-19

Orange you ready for some changes, San Diego? On this episode, we talk dive into the orange tier and the many changes that come with San Diego County’s recent move into this part of California’s color-coded coronavirus reopening plan.

The shift into the orange tier comes with capacity changes for all sorts of activities San Diegans like to take part in. We break it all down for you.

We also circle back to the topic of local restaurants that have somehow managed to debut during the pandemic, and touch on a couple of closures of eateries that will be truly missed by the communities they had such an impact on.

Finally, we take a little trip to the kitchen at the University of San Diego, where we meet Chef de Cuisine John Miller, the man behind the unique, international dining program on campus.

Listen to Episode 19 Here:

Listen/subscribe to the Scene in San Diego podcast to get the latest local lifestyle stories and news from our local food and drink scene. As we continue to adjust to life (back and forth, back and forth) in these times of the coronavirus pandemic, the way we enjoy our city has changed. We’ll keep you up to speed on how those changes impact the things you love to do in our city. Tap here to find Scene in San Diego wherever you listen to podcasts.

San Diego's Move Into the Orange Tier: What Changes?

State and county public health officials said San Diego County would move into the orange tier on April 7 – the “moderate” tier in California’s color-coded plan for safely reopening the economy during the pandemic.

San Diego had been in the red tier since mid-March. Before that, we were in the purple tier. This is our first time rolling into the orange tier since California Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced the color-coded system in late August 2020.

State public health officials said a boost in vaccinations across the state – more than 20 million, including 4 million vaccines in underserved communities hardest hit by the virus – have helped loosen some of the tier thresholds for counties, allowing for moves into less restrictive tiers.

Some changes impacting San Diego’s restaurant and lifestyle scenes under the orange tier include:

  • Restaurants: capacity increases to a maximum of 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer (outdoor and indoor dining continues).
  • Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries: indoor service can resume, with COVID safety modifications, including 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer (and the rule about NOT having to serve food at these businesses continues).
  • Bars (without food service): can reopen outdoors, with safety modifications.
  • Museums, Zoos, Aquariums: capacity on indoor activities can increase to 50% (this was at 25% under the red tier rules).
  • Movie Theaters: indoor capacity increases to a max of 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Family Entertainment Centers & Bowling Alleys: indoor service can resume, with COVID safety modifications, at 25% capacity – or at 50% if guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination, per the California Department of Public Health.
  • Amusement Parks: capacity increases to a max of 25% (up from 15% under the red tier), with in-state visitors only.
  • Outdoor Live Events with Assigned Seats (sports and live performances): capacity can increase to 33%; in-state visitors only and primarily in-seat concessions.

Also, effective April 15, the California Department of Public Health says indoor, seated live events and performances can resume under the red tier at a maximum of 10% or 100 people, whichever is fewer. In the orange tier, the max goes up to 15% or 200 people, whichever is fewer, or 35% if all guests are tested or show proof of full vaccination.

San Diego County public health officials said a 10 p.m. curfew in place for local restaurants since July 2020 will also be lifted under this wave of changes.

You can read all about the orange tier and how it impacts San Diego County here.

We also share some reopening dates for major theme parks across Southern California.

Pandemic Restaurant Debuts, Pandemic Restaurant Closures in San Diego

We continue to keep track of restaurants that have somehow managed to debut in San Diego County during the pandemic – and those special, local spots that just weren’t able to make it.

This time around, we highlight two openings:

  • Metl (a previous Scene in San Diego podcast guest that you can also check out here), which just opened a new location in North Park that is now serving brunch and will soon be dedicated to the brand’s booze-infused cocktail creamery.
  • Ciao Ciao Piadina, a new La Jolla restaurant recreating the great Italian tradition of “aperitivo,” where a bar gives you free snacks while you sip on a glass of wine or a spritz.

Eater San Diego will keep tracking pandemic-era debuts here.

On the other side of the pandemic, sadly, are local spots that have had to permanently shutter. We talk about two of those closures:

  • Little George’s Bakery, a sweet staple in San Diego’s South Bay for more than 40 years. The bakery announced last month it would shutter after the death of its owner, Gene Bartlett, who died on March 16 due to complications stemming from COVID-19.
  • Ichiro’s Happy Japanese Restaurant on Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa, which had been around for 36 years specializing in homestyle, Japanese small plates.

You can catch up on some of the local restaurants that have closed during the coronavirus pandemic here.

Gene Bartlett, 80, fought an eight-week battle with the coronavirus before he died, leaving his family without their pillar and a community treasuring the memories of the man behind Little George's bakery, reports NBC 7's Melissa Adan.

Guest Interview: John Miller, University of San Diego's Chef de Cuisine

We’re joined by John Miller, a longtime San Diego resident and Chef de Cuisine at the University of San Diego.

University of San Diego Chef de Cuisine John Miller.

Miller has been cooking for 30 years and shares how he got into the culinary industry – and how he made his way to USD. The chef also competed on the TV cooking competition, “Chopped” (to the delight of his wife) and shares what being on that show is really like.

Miller talks about what it takes to run the dining program at USD, how the pandemic has changed the food scene on campus, and what’s on the international menu.

He also shares how he hopes his food will make students feel during these uncertain times when people could certainly use a little bit of comfort.

For more content from The Scene, visit this website. For more content from Eater San Diego, click here. And to read our collaboration content with Eater and The Scene every week, click here.

The Scene in San Diego Feat. Eater Podcast is hosted by NBC 7’s Monica Garske and Eater San Diego’s Candice Woo, and is produced by NBC 7’s Matthew Lewis.

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