March 26, 2023


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

L.A. County outdoor dining ban may be limited; state order remains


A judge has limited Los Angeles County’s outdoor dining ban to three weeks, even as a state order will keep the restriction in place past Christmas, according to a tentative decision announced Tuesday.

Once the ban expires — on Dec. 16 — county public health officials must conduct a risk-benefit analysis to extend the closures, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said in his decision. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Under a targeted stay-at-home order, which rolled out across most of California early Monday, “outdoor restaurant dining in the county cannot open at this time,” Chalfant said in the decision. “Instead, the county should be prevented from continuing the restaurant closure order indefinitely.”

The ruling arrives nearly a week after Chalfant ordered the county to provide scientific evidence justifying the ban that went into effect Nov. 25. The initial ban was scheduled to last only three weeks but the county later made the restrictions indefinite, the judge said. Swift backlash followed the ban, which was issued as coronavirus cases began to soar, and opponents say it could spell the end for restaurants and bars already struggling during the pandemic.

Amid the outcry, the California Restaurant Assn. sued to stop the ban, with a downtown L.A. restaurant, Engine Co. No. 28, filing a similar suit. The challengers hoped to stop the ban from going into effect, a request Chalfant has consistently rejected. But Tuesday, Chalfant suggested the closure could not be open-ended.

On Wednesday, the judge said he would not issue any ruling that could adversely affect the health of county residents. Instead, he said he wanted to give the county time to show concrete proof that health benefits outweigh the negative economic impacts of the dining ban.

As part of the risk analysis, the county could be expected “to consider the economic cost of closing 30,000 restaurants, the impact to restaurant owners and their employees and the psychological and emotional cost to a public tired of the pandemic and seeking some form of enjoyment in their lives,” Chalfant wrote in the decision.

“You don’t just talk about the risk of spreading disease,” he said at last week’s hearing. “You have to talk about the benefit of keeping restaurants open.”


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