CA Restaurant Association challenges LA County ban on in-person dining

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The California Restaurant Association went to court Tuesday, Nov. 24 in hopes of blocking a Los Angeles County plan to end in-person dining due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“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. 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.

The CRA’s lawsuit seeks to block the ban from taking effect, while asking that the county provide supporting medical and scientific evidence to justify the move.

It was unclear if a judge would immediately rule on the matter.

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.