Outdoor dining in Morgan Hill shut down by ABC without notice

Bay Area

MORGAN HILL, Calif. (KRON) – Restaurants in Morgan Hill were told by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Friday that they must stop all outdoor dining immediately.

Originally, restaurants were told they would have ‘a three-week cessation’ for indoor dining beginning July 1. 

It was in the middle of the dinner rush when ABC agents made a visit to Ladera Grill in downtown Morgan Hill advising not to reopen on July 4th.

Chris Provini was the manager on duty.

“Their message was that Gavin Newsom had instructed them that they give out fines for people dining outside or inside,” Provini said.

Other businesses received a letter from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control stating businesses should cease specified operations.

City leaders say they had little warning.

“It’s customary of outside policing agency when they go into a jurisdiction to notify that jurisdiction so our police department, the Morgan Hill Police Department was not notified,” Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine.

ABC officers said that outdoor seating wasn’t approved for Santa Clara County in the first place. 

“Typically, we would be notified of this type of enforcement in our jurisdiction, but neither our department nor the Sheriff’s Office were notified that anything like this would be happening,” Police Chief Shane Palsgrove said. 

“The bottom line is we were caught off guard,” Morgan Hill City manager Christina Turner said. “Our restaurants were caught off guard, our police department was caught off guard and as far as we know outdoor dining is allowed in Santa Clara County.”

In a statement, ABC confirms the department was in Morgan Hill Friday night and says:

“ABC yesterday began 4th of July enforcement of alcoholic beverage laws. Agents across the state met with owners of licensed premises to ensure they were complying with alcoholic beverage laws and public health orders. ABC stresses education over enforcement in most instances, and the vast majority of owners voluntarily complied after meeting with ABC Agents. Last evening in Morgan Hill, agents visited a number of locations. Agents met with owners and explained that Santa Clara County had not received variance to open, and that they were technically in violation of California’s stay at home orders.  Agents did not issue any citations or notice of violations.  Many business owners asked if they needed to cease operations immediately.  ABC explained that they could continue with service until their regularly scheduled closing time.  Agents further explained that they should not reopen tomorrow (actually now today) in violation of the stay at home orders, however, they may remain open as a take-out operation.  Agents estimate that they spent 20-30 minutes with each licensee explaining the circumstances.  This link provides a list of all the counties that have filed attestations allowing counties to reopen a little more https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/County_Variance_Attestation_Form.aspx

This comes as the health officer of Santa Clara County was seeking approval by the state to allow more businesses to continue operations – that includes outdoor dining.

The county landed on the governor’s COVID-19 watch list after a rise in new cases.

Despite the notice, restaurants in downtown Morgan Hill remain open on July 4th.

“We’re abiding by the current stipulations and until we get some more clarity from the governor or from the county, then we will but right now we’re following those guidelines and we’re following them strictly,” Provini said.

Restaurants in the county were not given notice that outdoor dining would be shutdown. 

City officials say that if restaurants aren’t allowed to open outdoor dining, they will lose more revenue.  

Morgan Hill has taken health measures to keep residents safe and has worked with businesses to be sure they are able to open in a safe manner. 

“We take safety seriously in Morgan Hill and have worked diligently to understand, support and follow both the state and county orders. We are still investigating what took place and why this happened without any forewarning or collaboration with the County or the City. This is very unsettling. Morgan Hill and the County of Santa Clara have been working hard to lead the way through the recovery of this pandemic in the safest way possible. The Governor pledged to work collaboratively with us, and we look forward to gaining clarity from the state and county.”

Morgan Hill’s City Manager Christina Turner

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