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Short Lived Victory


Last updated 12/31/2020 at 12:20am

A day after a San Diego County Superior Court judge issued an injunction to prohibit a cease-and-desist order from being enforced on strip clubs and businesses with restaurant services, it was quickly overturned after an appellate court ruling blocked the temporary injunction on Dec. 18. The California Court of Appeals blocked the injunction after Governor Gavin Newsom requested an immediate stay of the ruling.

San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond who has been fighting for the reopening of businesses and establishments responded, “Today’s decision to close restaurants one day after they were allowed to open is tragic for San Diego’s workforce. The seesawing of people’s livelihoods one week before Christmas is devastating.”

On Dec. 16, Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil wrote in his nine-page ruling that the state of California and San Diego County have not provided evidence tying the spread of COVID-19 or lack of intensive care unit bed capacity to live adult entertainment or businesses with restaurant service.

San Diego County said it would pause on enforcing restaurant enclosures until further notice: “The State and the County are analyzing the scope of the ruling and discuss-ing next steps which includes seek-ing clarity from the court. Until we have clarity, we have suspend-ed enforcement activities against restaurants and live entertainment establishments. With record numbers of new infections, deaths, and ICUs at capacity, we want to remind everyone to do your part. Please don’t gather, socially distance, wear a face covering, and wash your hands.”

This gave the green light to restaurants, at their own discretion, to allow for indoor and outdoor dining.

Supervisor Desmond issued a statement after the ruling:

“A judge just ruled restaurants can open! Effective immediately, the County will not be enforcing restaurant closures. I hope it’s not too late for the many restaurants hanging on. The County will not be enforcing restaurant closures. Thank you to the business owners and their workers for their courage. How this all plays out, that remains to be seen? However, this ruling only applies to those who provide restaurant services. We assume the State will appeal and my colleagues voted to appeal along with the State. Supervisor Kristin Gaspar and I voted to not appeal their decision.”

“Let’s remember, new case numbers are going up. We need to abide by all the safety protocols. Continue to wear masks, social distance, and follow all the protocols. We believe that businesses should be allowed to safely open.”

Restaurants were closed down for indoor operations in November, after the county fell into the state’s purple tier restrictions, then were restricted to takeout and delivery after stricter modifications were made when Governor Newsom classified counties into regions.

While the reign of allowing indoor and outdoor dining to some capacity, and having some type of road to normality built, the court ruled against the injunction, and restaurants were to close effective immediately once again. District 4 Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said it was the right thing to do.

“This is the right decision to protect our communities given the severity of cases and hospitalizations we are experiencing in San Diego County. Everyone should stay home unless it is absolutely essential,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors met in closed session Dec. 18, before the appellate court’s stay order, and agreed to a partial appeal of the judge’s injunction.

“The Board voted to appeal the order, but the Board directed County Counsel to only argue that the order is incorrect as it relates to the continued operation of strip clubs and the allowance of indoor dining. We support outdoor dining with appropriate safety protocols that have been previously established,” Board President Greg Cox said in a statement. “It is unclear if or when public health order enforcement at restaurants and live entertainment businesses will resume. We remind everyone that the virus is still out there. Please continue to cover your face, wash your hands and avoid gatherings.”

Supervisor Fletcher, who’s been the most vocal supervisor in support of business restrictions during the pandemic, criticized the basis for Wohlfeil’s ruling.

“To have a judge come out and say that there is no data to support that restaurant settings are more dangerous, is defying thousands of pages of research, our own experience with what we went through in June and July, along with the information of who’s contracting it and I fear it causes a significant impact in our ability to respond,” Fletcher said.

Most of the state is currently on a three-week lockdown after counties were placed into five regions due to the ICU bed availability. The lock-down took effect on Dec. 6, and is set to lift on Dec. 28.

It is unclear at the time of print what will happen after the three week lockdown, and if it will be extended. With the holiday season approaching, the rise of cases could be imminent, and the question of how our local businesses will survive remains.

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