Christine Green drove about 40 miles to enjoy a sample platter at El Cholo Café this Thanksgiving weekend, on the outdoor patio in Pasadena.

Green lives out in Valencia, where there is no outdoor dining available, so she decided to take a trip where outside seating is still permitted, and she’s not the only one willing to make the long drive.

The sidewalks in Pasadena on Thanksgiving weekend are crowded with outdoor diners, many from far-flung reaches of LA County, looking for a way to chill out and relax after a hectic holiday.

Like Green, they can’t do that where they’re from anymore, so they travel great distances.

“It’s also being able to support the businesses that need it, and that’s very important,” she said.

El Cholo’s operating partner, Diego Fernandez, says his phones started ringing off the hook about mid-week.

That’s when LA County’s outdoor dining ban went into effect, shutting down everything but take-out at all restaurants.

Pasadena, like neighboring Ventura and Orange counties, has its own health department, and all three made the decision to keep outdoor dining open.

Fernandez says many of his customers are first-timers.

“That tells me that people are coming from out of town,” he said.

Everaldo Muro and his wife own El Metate Café a few miles away.

“We do have people coming by to eat here,” Muro said.

Muro hopes that the out-of-towners, traveling dozens of miles from all over the county, can continue to keep him in business.

Even though the restaurants that remain open can offer in-person dining, they are still only able to accept a fraction of what was normal.

“We have like four or five tables, and we keep it busy. I mean, mostly in the nighttime,” Muro said.

While all these businesses may benefit from Black Friday shoppers flocking to cities like Pasadena to sit down and eat after visiting the mall, the concern about the spread of COVID-19 remains present.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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