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California Judge Tells Los Angeles to Show Proof Outdoor Dining Spreads Coronavirus

— December 4, 2020

The judge appeared sympathetic to the restaurant coalition suing the county, but said he needs to see evidence–or lack thereof–before making a decision.

A California judge has asked Los Angeles to provide medical evidence about coronavirus transmission rates to justify its blanket ban on outdoor dining.

The order comes days after the California Restaurant Association asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to review and block a November 25th order prohibiting restaurants from serving customers outdoors.

In its complaint, the restauranteurs asked that the ban be rescinded immediately unless or until the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors provides “medical or scientific evidence” showing that outdoor dining poses a substantial risk of facilitating local coronavirus transmission.

The CRA and its allies have maintained there is no compelling reason to believe that outdoor dining facilities have contributed to California’s recent case resurgence.

“The recent order with no stated scientific basis from L.A. County singles out a specific industry and could jeopardize thousands of jobs,” said California Restaurant Association President and CEO Jot Condie. “There are thousands of restaurants and many thousands more employees who could be out in the street right before the holiday season.”

Downtown Los Angeles. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:salewskia. (CCA-BY-4.0).

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that, although Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant refused to scrap the ban outright, he did give the city and its Board of Supervisors a one-week deadline to procure relevant evidence.

While the Daily News suggests that Chalfant did, in fact, appear sympathetic to arguments against the ban, he is reluctant to make a decision that could adversely affect public health without first reviewing the city’s rationale for implementing an outdoor dining ban in the first place.

Nevertheless, attorneys for the California Restaurant Association are optimistic that Chalfant will take their side in the suit.

“There is no evidence or study that outdoor dining specifically creates risk. There is deductive reasoning that if you’re dining and you don’t have a mask, that this increases the chances of transmitting the virus,” CRA attorney Dennis Hill said. “It’s a logical conclusion that any form of eating creates some sort of risk, but there is no study, support, or evidence showing that there is an increase specifically related to dining.”

The Los Angeles Daily News notes that Los Angeles’s ban on outdoor dining runs until December 16th.

However, the city—which has begun increasing and re-implementing coronavirus-related restrictions to cope with a wintertime uptick in cases—could easily extend that date towards or past the new year.

ABC7 Los Angeles states that “coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been rapidly rising” across California since the beginning of November. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have increased by nearly 77% in the last two weeks alone, while California is reporting upwards of 14,000 new cases per day.

City officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, have cited this uptick as but one reason for restaurant closures.

“At this rate,” Garcetti said, “our hospitals won’t have any spare beds by Christmas time.”


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