East Bay restaurants fight to survive amid shutdown

Bay Area

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KRON) – East Bay restaurants filed a lawsuit against Contra Costa County for shutting down outdoor dining before state guidelines required the county to do so.

They say there’s no data or evidence proving that outdoor dining contributes to the spread of COVID-19.

Bar Cava Wine Whiskey & Eatery in Martinez is one of several restaurants and bars suing the county.

Like others, they’re operating on a purely take-out or delivery basis but the owner says that’s not enough to pay the bills and keep their business running.

Through this lawsuit, he says the businesses are fighting for their right to survive.

Bar Cava Wine Whiskey & Eatery, along with other Martinez restaurants, invested thousands of dollars to pivot into outdoor dining but now, its patio is closed and they’re operating on take-out/delivery orders only.

That’s after the county, along with five other Bay Area counties, preemptively went under a stay-at-home order before state guidelines required them to do so.

“Why can’t we keep going this whole time to be making money to pay our bills, not to lay off our employees, to pay our vendors? None of that is happening right now. The streets are quiet,” Corey Katz said. 

Owner Corey Katz is one of at least four business owners filing a lawsuit against the county saying they shut down outdoor dining without proof that it contributes to the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re just not doing it for ourselves. We’re doing this for the whole entire restaurant industry. We support wearing masks. We support doing social distancing and we just want people to know that, that we’re not trying to be greedy. We’re trying to fight for our constitutional right to survive,” Katz said. 

Enrique Montero who owns Retro Junkie in Walnut Creek is also on the lawsuit. He says the damages caused by the county are obvious.

“The bills don’t stop. We have rent. We have insurance that’s due and those things don’t go away. I have employees reaching out to me for payroll still and we’re covering those. All my personal credit cards have been tapped towards the business. It’s just been the American dream turned into the American nightmare,” Montero said.

Nathan Dondi who’s one of the lawyers representing these restaurants and bars says they’re not asking for favors but for what’s fair. 

“Orders in Contra Costa County that are mandating outdoor dining to close are purely based on speculation. A lot of the data that the county has provided does not show any relation to Contra Costa County,” Dondi said. 

This comes after an LA judge ruled in favor of restaurants last week saying the county couldn’t prove that restaurants are causing a spike in cases.

KRON4 reached out to the lawyer representing the county for their response to the lawsuit but have not heard back yet.

The next court date is December 24th – Christmas eve – where the restaurant will provide more evidence of the harm being done to their businesses. 

From there, the judge is expected to make a decision.

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