Judge Refuses to Block COVID-19 County’s Outdoor Dining Ban

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A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Tuesday morning refused to block the Los Angeles County outdoor dining ban from coming into effect, dismissing an 11 a.m. plea from the leading restaurant group in the State.While al fresco dining in LA County is expected to close Wednesday night amid a continuing rise in new cases of coronavirus, the California Restaurant Assn. sued the ban by county health officials and, as a first step, sought an emergency order from a judge preventing the new rules from coming into effect.

Lawyers for the association have asked Judge James Chalfant to issue an order to prevent the closures from continuing unless health officials can provide scientific evidence to support their decision to impose the eating ban. Chalfant rejected the request, calling the evidence presented by the association “insufficient” to overturn the ban or to require the county to provide the data in its decision.

The judge also said that in the absence of “solid evidence” from the association that the eating ban was inappropriate, he would not schedule further hearings to determine whether the ban should be overturned. If new evidence emerges, Chalfant said the association is free to bring it to him.

Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Assn., Said he was disappointed the judge had not “put the brakes on” the shutdown, but added that he was happy the court left a lane for the business is progressing.

“We are pleased that the court has recognized our right to test the county to prove that it has a scientific basis for closing outdoor restaurants, and we plan to move forward in demanding that the county provide this proof, ”Condie said. in written statements after the decision.

County officials declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing pending litigation.

As coronavirus cases increased, county health officials announced on Sunday that they would temporarily suspend alfresco dining at restaurants, dealing a blow to the already struggling restaurant and hospitality industry. Los Angeles.

Under the new rules, which are expected to take effect Wednesday night, all restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars in the county will be banned from serving customers outside for at least three weeks. Domestic service has been banned since the spring. In announcing the restrictions, health officials said there was a need to cut back on places where large groups can congregate and spread the virus.

Pasadena announced Monday that the city would allow restaurants to continue to eat al fresco despite the county’s order. The city has its own public health department that can issue independent orders, but has generally followed Los Angeles County’s lead.

“We will be reviewing our data on a daily basis but at this point we will not be closing any restaurants on Wednesday or in the near future,” said Lisa Derderian, City of Pasadena spokesperson, after a city council meeting. Monday when the decision was made.

The city of Long Beach, which also has its own public health department, has joined the county and issued a new health order banning on-site meals from Wednesday.

According to the California Restaurant Assn., Restaurants can operate as safely as other industries during the pandemic, and the impact of a ban on workers and owners of the food industry will be enormous.

“There are thousands of restaurants and thousands of additional employees who could be on the streets just before the holiday season,” Condie said in a statement.

LA County officials warned last week that the rule would be imposed if the five-day average of new cases reached 4,000, or if hospitalizations exceeded 1,750 per day.

The five-day average reached 4,097 on Sunday, the public health ministry said, and hospitalizations stood at 1,473 on Saturday, a 92% increase from the previous month.

“The high and persistent number of cases requires additional safety measures that limit mixing in settings where people do not wear masks,” Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County director of public health, said in a statement. .

City News Service contributed to this report.

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