California Judge Blocks Enforcement of State and Local Bans on Restaurant Dining in San Diego County
A California judge this week blocked enforcement of state and local orders prohibiting dining in San Diego County restaurants, finding no evidence that such bans help curtail the COVID-19 epidemic. “Given every opportunity,” San Diego County Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil said, the county and the state have “provided the Court with no evidence that San Diego County businesses with restaurant service, such as Plaintiffs’ establishments, who’ve implemented protocols as directed by the County, present any risk—much less a greater risk than before Governor Newsom issued his December 3, 2020 Regional Stay at Home Order.”
The case involves two strip clubs with restaurant service, Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club and Pacers Showgirls International, which initially challenged local cease-and-desist orders. Gov. Gavin Newsom subsequently issued an order that imposes many restrictions, including a ban on both indoor and outdoor restaurant dining, on regions where the available ICU capacity has fallen below 15 percent. That order currently applies to all of Southern California, including San Diego County, and Wohlfeil included Newsom in his preliminary injunction.
Wohlfeil noted that the plaintiffs had implemented various COVID-19 precautions, including physical distancing, masks for employees, and sanitization. They are following “all provisions of the State of California Industry Guidance for restaurants, wineries and bars.” Dancers perform in roped-off areas at least 15 feet from tables, and patrons are not allowed to approach them. No COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced to either business.
“The County possesses contact tracing data and has the power to produce such evidence to refute Plaintiffs’ assertions that Plaintiffs providing live adult entertainment and San Diego County businesses with restaurant service, such as Plaintiffs’ establishments, subject to protocols, do not present any risk,” Wohlfeil noted. Yet the county failed to produce any such evidence, leading Wohlfeil to conclude that the strip clubs “have done nothing to contrib
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