NAPA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Governor Gavin Newsom is being sued over California’s outdoor dining ban.
At least 50 restaurants and wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties are in on the lawsuit, claiming the state’s decision to stop outdoor dining is irrational. California’s top health officer Tomás J. Aragón is also named as a defendant.
The Wine Country Coalition for Safe Reopening says there is no scientific data that shows outdoor dining spreads COVID-19 worse than other businesses, and they point to retail stores that are still open during the pandemic.
The complainant said the business owners have spent millions of dollars to try and make a comfortable outdoor dining experience when the state closed indoor dining months ago.
Newsom’s spokesperson says they will defend the governor’s decision in court.
The state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy was revealed in August 2020, and gave guidance for lifting some restrictions on businesses that were shut down to contain the coronavirus.
Each county was placed in a tier based on how risky COVID-19 transmission is, using case counts and test positivity rates.
The risk level criteria determines what is allowed to open within each tier, including ability to keep face masks on (which is not possible while dining), ability to limit mixing of different households, and so on.
The Purple tier is the most restrictive and allowed restaurants to do outdoor dining only. For months, Napa and Sonoma County restaurants adhered to the regulations.
According to the lawsuit, these are some of the steps the coalition members took to operate outdoors before the shutdown:
- Purchased or rented expensive equipment such as tents, heaters, “parklets,” umbrellas, and outdoor furniture to accommodate outdoor dining or wine tasting.
- Installed hand sanitation stations at all points of entry and exits, and
- anywhere else someone would come in contact with a handle.
- Installed glass or Plexiglas walls between customers and employees for
- Purchased and mandated masks for all customers and employees.
- Purchased protective equipment, including gloves and face shields or
- goggles for all restaurant dishwashers.
- Increased spending on takeout materials and delivery fees, in some cases to levels exceeding their monthly rent.
Since the 2020 winter holiday season, however, California implemented a regional stay-at-home order which would take hold in regions that fall below 15% available ICU capacity.
This shutdown reverted restaurants to curbside pickup/takeout only, rendering the new outdoor dining setups useless. The Bay Area region went under the stay-at-home order on Dec. 17, 2020.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the lowest risk option is for restaurants to limit food service to drive-thru, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick up.
However, the guidance adds: “In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.”