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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Tijuana bars okayed to open after being closed for a year

Bars & nightclubs can operate at 50% capacity starting this week, attracting tourists from San Diego County

TIJUANA, Baja California — Bars and nightclubs in Tijuana are reopening after being closed for a year due to the pandemic.

The Baja Secretary of Health put out a news release last week that said bars could operate at 50 percent capacity starting Monday, March 8.

Restaurants in Tijuana have been open for some time, offering both inside and outdoor dining with COVID restrictions in place. The new health announcement said restaurants can operate at 75 percent capacity.

“The hygienics are a lot more strict but the economic restrictions are a lot more lax here,” said Mariam Assadian of Pacific Beach, as she dined along with Avenue Revolution.

“In order to enter a business in Tijuana you have to get your temperature checked, you have to sanitize your hands, and you have to take a lot of hygienic precautions,” Assadian said.  “On the street, everybody's wearing masks.”

Travel restrictions across the border with Mexico in both directions remain in place, where only essential travel is allowed at land border crossings.

U.S. citizens apparently had no trouble reaching Tijuana’s tourist areas last week, however.

The drinking age is 18 in Mexico, which has attracted American tourists to Tijuana for decades.

“I just make sure I bring my mask and follow the rules,” said Anthony Amoroso of San Diego, who said he crosses the border about once a month.

“In San Diego more stuff is closed, in more of the restaurants you can only be outside.  Some [restaurants] here you can be inside.  You get a little bit more to do here than on the other side,” he said.

It's difficult to compare COVID positivity rates in Tijuana versus San Diego because testing protocols are different in the two border cities.

American tourists said they still are being cautious.

“I'm still keeping my distance.  I always try to be by myself most of the time.  I think I still keep my distance as far as being with a lot of people because you never know who's sick,” said Juan Pablo Alcay of Colorado.

In Tijuana, business owners do not get government assistance during the pandemic like they do in the United States.  So the reopening of bars, after a year of being closed, is good news.

“Here on Revolution Avenue there's so many restaurants.  You can go to Rosarito.  You can go down to Puerto Nuevo.  You can go to the Valle [de Guadelupe] if you want to go wine tasting.  So, yeah there's a lot of opportunities for Americans to come down and have a good time,” said Assadian.

As it stands now, U.S. citizens are only supposed to walk or drive into Mexico for essential purposes, so American tourists do risk being stopped by Mexican authorities.

Once in Mexico, customs officers will not stop U.S. citizens from returning to the United States.