A judge today declined to issue a restraining order preventing the ban on in-person dining at restaurants, bars and wineries from taking effect on Wednesday night, but did allow a lawsuit against Los Angeles County over the restaurant ban to proceed.
The California Restaurant Association asked for the restraining order and also filed the lawsuit against the county.
“The recent order with no stated scientific basis from L.A. County singles out a specific industry and could jeopardize thousands of jobs,” Jot Condie, president/CEO of the California Restaurant Association, said in a statement announcing the legal challenge. “There are thousands of restaurants and many thousands more employees who could be out on the street right before the holiday season.”
The county restriction ending in-person dining for three weeks is scheduled to take effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday, in an effort to curb the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Restaurant Association attorney Dennis Ellis told reporters he was disappointed in the ruling, but said the organization hasn’t seen any evidence that outdoor dining — which was already restricted to half of overall capacity last week — has fueled the coronavirus surge.
“We have not been able to see what the county has to support the notion that outdoor dining at 50% capacity, consistent with what the governor has authorized in his blueprint, is inappropriate and needs to be shut down,” Ellis said.
The ban was announced Sunday night when the county’s five-day average of daily new cases topped the threshold of 4,000.
The threshold was established by the county last week, along with a more restrictive tier that would trigger a new stay-at-home order if the daily five-day case average topped 4,500. The county reached that threshold Monday.
The county Board of Supervisors is set to discuss the new restrictions at its meeting Tuesday. On Monday, Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she would speak out against the ban on in-person dining, saying it would threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs. She also questioned whether restaurants are the major source of the county’s current virus surge, which has been blamed more on private gatherings.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, however, defended the ban and noted that all five supervisors agreed to it a week ago.
“Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other kind of business,” Kuehl said.
She said diners at restaurants “sit for hours with no masks on” and are in close proximity to servers and patrons walking by.
In addition to the CRA court challenge, the owners of Engine Co. 28 restaurant in downtown Los Angeles also filed suit against the county Tuesday.
The city of Long Beach, which has its own health department, also plans to bar in-person dining Wednesday night. The Long Beach Restaurant Association blasted the move and plans to hold a news conference Wednesday demanding a meeting with city and county health officials. In a statement, the association accused health officials of attacking an “easy target” to blame for the surge in cases, without any evidence.
The city of Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has not yet issued a ban on in-person dining, with officials saying the situation will be reviewed on a daily basis before any action is taken.