Coronavirus: Agents with state Alcoholic Beverage Control make surprise visit to SoCal restaurants

CULVER CITY, Calif. (KABC) -- It's a change that many restaurants are making. The only way to stay open is by keeping customers out.

Owners struggling to survive during the coronvirus pandemic are creating open-air dining areas on sidewalks and streets.

"This outdoor patio is a lifesaver. It's the difference between being closed and being open right now," said restaurant owner Sebastien Cornic.

But restaurants must comply with state health orders.

Agents from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), made surprise visits to restaurants in Culver City, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica on Friday to make sure they are complying with state health orders.

"Everyone is six, ten feet apart. It's outside, we got the wind blowing, so I feel safe here," said Culver City resident Kyle Heffner.

Under health restrictions, customers cannot be served indoors. Employees serving alcoholic beverages and meals must wear facial coverings and tables must be socially distanced. Violators could face penalties.

"We always prefer education over enforcement. We're not looking at issuing citations unless we have very serious violations out there," said Gerry Sanchez, supervising agent with the California ABC.

Officials say most restaurants follow the rules. Agents have visited more than 40,000 businesses statewide since July 1 and issued only 113 citations.

"I'm really happy that they're doing something to try to help our people who are having the businesses out here," said Ellie Ellis of Westwood.

Restaurant owners say it's a challenging time but they're committed to doing what's necessary.

"I personally wouldn't feel safe right now sitting inside with a crowd of people. I wouldn't expect my customers to. My responsibility is keeping my staff safe and my customers safe," said restaurant owner Kevin Kearns.

COVID-19: Here's how Los Angeles County can get off the watch list
EMBED More News Videos

On Friday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer spoke with abc7.com in an exclusive interview. She says the county is working to get off the state's watch list.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.