MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Health Department has issued a reminder to area businesses that all food facilities are not allowed to host live music and entertainment.
The order comes from the state health guidelines issued in July, but which recently received clarification last week to include no live music or entertainment for restaurants. The lack of clarification had led to some restaurants hosting such live entertainment in the interim period.
By state order enforced by the county, all restaurants must discontinue their live entertainment until they are allowed to resume modified or full operation. In addition, the county clarified live music and entertainment is not allowed at any public gathering or community event.
“The whole purpose for that is social distancing,” said Ricardo Encarnacion, assistant bureau chief for the county’s Environmental Health Bureau.
Encarnacion compared the restriction on music and entertainment to other Covid-19 control efforts, such as hand washing. He said the Bureau has conducted 1,671 visits to local businesses within the county in order to provide education and supplies, as well as assess their compliance with health guidelines. These guidelines are part of enforcement, in which a restaurant could jeopardize its permits by not complying.
“Thankfully, people have been mostly compliant,” Encarnacion said.
Some businesses, however, needed multiple visits from the bureau. Now, entertainment is part of that compliance.
“To prevent the spread of Covid is to prevent gatherings,” said Encarnacion, who explained that restriction of music and entertainment discourages gatherings in restaurants. “The intent is to have a meal and conduct business and not promote a gathering-type venue,” he added.
Encarnacion clarified the restriction is not based on the health risk of playing an instrument, but being part of a contributor to gatherings.
“This specific guideline speaks to not promoting having a person conducting business longer than they need to,” he said. “The reason for that is not the act of playing an instrument can cause Covid, but promoting having business longer than what a person would need to have a meal.”
That said, Encarnacion explained the county is aware restaurants are in a difficult position when they are used to having music and entertainment as part of their ambience to draw in customers.
“We’re trying to remind people that every little bit helps,” Encarnacion said. “It’s more of trying to help control not having long-standing gatherings in a place.”
The prevention of long-standing gatherings is also why the county is not approving public events.
“Special events, community events and street fairs right now are not allowed, per state guidance,” Encarnacion said.
In the meantime, Encarnacion noted the county will continue inspections to ensure businesses also maintain health guidance, including hand washing, social distancing and having outdoor tent areas that are not fully enclosed.
“There’s a lot of things that we need to do to … control this disease,” Encarnacion said. “That’s why the health department is here to provide education and enforcement.”