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San Diego's red-tier status gives green light to indoor service for many businesses

Restrictions on indoor capacity are now enforced, with restaurants and movie theaters capped at 25%, and gyms and fitness centers at 10%

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Beginning Wednesday, San Diego County officially falls into the red tier, meaning that restrictions on restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters, currently banning customers inside, will be lifted, although there will be limits on capacity. 

While many business owners are celebrating, others are questioning why they are still shut down. 

Entering the red tier gives the green light for restaurants to re-open to indoor dining, capped at 25% capacity.

"We have been planning for this for weeks and weeks," said Randy Smerik, owner of Solare at Liberty Station.   

"We just want to make sure all the tables are correctly distanced and that we're following all the safety protocols," Smerik added.

Under the red tier, movie theaters can reopen at 25% capacity; retail businesses in shopping centers can now increase capacity from 25 to 50%; and places of worship can allow congregants inside at 25% capacity.

Gyms and fitness centers, like 24 Hour Fitness in Carlsbad, will now be able to welcome guests inside, at ten percent capacity.

"24 Hour Fitness is extremely excited to be able to reopen for all of its members in the San Diego market," said general manager Robert Thomas.

Not all business owners throughout the county, though, are as excited.

"I'm really just sitting tight, and I'm just trying to remain as hopeful as possible," said Julie Kazmi, owner of the Silver Fox in Pacific Beach, a family-owned dive bar that would have celebrated its 45th anniversary last summer.

Instead, it has been shut down for the past year, with a brief one-week reopening last June.

While bars could reopen for outdoor service under the orange tier, because the Silver Fox has only indoor seating, Julie must wait until San Diego reaches the yellow tier. However, she believes she could safely reopen to customers now.

"100% I feel singled out.... the evil, red-headed step-child!" she laughed.

Hope is on the horizon, though. While San Diego just officially reached the red tier, there are signs that we could be closing in on orange.

"The testing positivity is 2.8%, which is the orange tier," county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said on Tuesday morning, 

San Diego's case rate per 100,000, now at 6.8, would also have to fall below 4.0 for two straight weeks to enter orange.

Julie said she is staying positive. 

"I am not going to go down like this," she told News 8.  "I'm determined to get this place up and going again!"

While San Diego is trending in the right direction, health officials also warned about the prevalence of coronavirus variants in Southern California. They cautioned San Diegans to continue taking preventive measures, like mask-wearing and social distancing, to avoid returning to the purple tier.

Watch: Preparing for St. Patrick's Day in the Gaslamp under the red tier