The Oakland Zoo can reopen and outdoor dining can resume in Alameda County following the state’s approval of a variance from certain activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, county public health officials announced Wednesday.

An Oakland Zoo spokesperson confirmed this week that the zoo will reopen to the public for outdoor activities only starting July 29. Tickets will go on sale July 26 at

The zoo closed in March when the regional shelter-in-place order went into effect to limit the spread of the virus. It costs $1 million a month to operate the zoo, which was at risk of closing permanently.

Alameda County health officials submitted a request for a variance Tuesday after the Board of Supervisors gave their unanimous support for it, which was required before health officials could submit it.

The variance was the zoo’s first critical step for survival, said Nik Dehejia, executive vice president of the zoo.

“I’m really pleased and excited that the supervisors moved this forward,” said Nick Dehejia, executive vice president of the zoo.

The zoo would be limited to outdoor activities. Rides, playgrounds and indoor exhibits would not be open to the public.

Dehejia noted that parks in the area are crowded and the zoo might alleviate some of that. It would be good as well for residents’ mental health, he said.

“We’re going to start extremely slow and safe,” Dehejia said. “This is our first critical step for survival.”

Even though the zoo will reopen, attendance will be limited to 2,500 people per day — one-third of normal capacity — and revenue will still fall short of the zoo’s normal operating costs. To raise money, the zoo is planning a virtual fundraiser and reopening celebration called LollapaZOOla, which will stream on its website July 25 at 7 p.m.

The zoo has received support from the community and Dehejia and others at the zoo are grateful.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a 6-year-old Castro Valley girl has raised $187,639 for the zoo in 13 days. Andy Soulard was brokenhearted to learn that the zoo may have to close permanently, so she started a fundraiser by donating $5 she received from the Tooth Fairy, a Facebook post for her work says.

“We have been so incredibly heartened by the community support,” Dehejia said. “They want to make sure we’re around for generations to come.”

Zoo officials said another way to help is to maintain or purchase a membership or donate to the Animal Care Fund.

The Oakland Zoo gets hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On a busy weekend in normal times it sees 7,000 visitors.

With state approval of the variance, the zoo can reopen if it is in compliance with the most recent shelter-in-place order in the county, public health officials said.