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Judge Slams California's Restaurant Closures, but Little Relief as Lockdown Hits 30M+ Residents

12-09-2020
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Flag of California
Flag of California

A California judge just sent a strong message to state officials, saying they "acted arbitrarily" in closing down restaurants over COVID.

Los Angeles County is under strict stay-at-home orders after a rise in cases. 

But a judge ruled health officials have not provided enough proof that outdoor dining is spreading the virus, and he says restrictions on restaurants should not have been enforced.

However, he noted they cannot reopen at this time because of the state's broad new lockdown, providing little relief for restaurant owners.

"We can't pay our employees. We can't pay our vendors. It's very frustrating," said Tanya Christos, a restaurant co-owner. "And we don't know what to say to our employees when we can't give them their payroll checks."

Some see the judge's ruling as a symbolic victory for those challenging lockdowns and restrictions. 

Meanwhile, soaring infections in California are driving the number of hospitalizations to around 10,000, and the impact of the state's new lockdown rules is expected to hit more than 30 million Californians.

The new stay-at-home orders ban indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, close salons and impose restrictions on social get-togethers.

The goal: curb the number of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. But struggling small business owners question the extent of the measures.

"Well, it hurts us definitely from a sales perspective," said chef and restaurant owner John Thiel. "We can't serve outside anymore... So it's a little bit disappointing that we would be the ones to get shut down where we've worked so hard to get to a safe place for our clients." 

One LA restaurant owner's plea for help has gone viral. Angela Marsden voiced her frustrations about the latest lockdown and explained how she and other business owners are struggling to survive.

"This is dangerous. Mayor Garcetti and Gavin Newsom is responsible for every single person that doesn't have unemployment, that does not have a job and all the businesses that are going under," she said. "And we need your help. We need somebody to do something about this." 

The new rules also ban residents from getting together with people outside of their households.

On Sunday, California reported a third day of record COVID cases, with infections going over 30,000.

"I think across the board, you're seeing a lot of small businesses struggling to navigate the pandemic, struggling to understand what their state regulations are, and then really waiting on the federal government to pass relief that will support them and help them," said Awesta Sarkash from the Small Business Majority.

"Our most recent survey was in mid-October, and one in three small businesses said they wouldn't be able to survive the next three months without federal relief," she shared.

And during the holiday season, it's especially tough.

"This is the busiest time of the year for restaurants," said Thiel. "But generally speaking, I would say a lot of people would normally be getting together or having holiday parties. So we've lost all of our private party business. We've lost all catering business."

California churches are also pushing back against prohibitions on indoor services. 

Liberty Counsel founder and attorney Mat Staver is arguing a case on behalf of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena.

"These restrictions of no worship that cover 99 percent of California actually go as far back as July the 13th," he said. "And the no worship also includes no worship in your home or Bible study in your home with anyone who doesn't live there."

Reports indicate some law enforcement officials don't plan to aggressively enforce the rules. They say they're going on the honor system and counting on residents to voluntarily wear masks and social distance.

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