Judge tentatively strikes down LA County outdoor dining ban

Calls it “abuse” of emergency powers and one that lacks “science, evidence or logic”

LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer (Getty, iStock)
LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer (Getty, iStock)

A judge has tentatively struck down Los Angeles County’s controversial ban on outdoor dining, calling it an abuse of emergency power and one that lacks “science, evidence or logic.”

In a Tuesday morning written ruling, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant overturned the county’s ban on outdoor dining, which went into effect Nov. 25 following a sharp spike in coronavirus cases. The Real Deal obtained a copy of the “tentative” ruling. Chalfant has scheduled an afternoon hearing, which will confirm or change the 53-page ruling.

The outdoor dining ban has caused an uproar in the industry, and that spurred the lawsuit by the California Restaurant Association that led to the judge’s decision.

“The Restaurant Closure Order is an abuse of the department’s emergency powers, is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic, and should be adjudicated to be unenforceable as a matter of law,” Chalfant wrote.

“The department’s own data provide no support for the planned shutdown of outdoor restaurant operations,” Chalfant wrote. The judge noted that of the 204 locations identified by the county as having three or more confirmed Covid cases, fewer than ten percent are restaurants.

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The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to close outdoor dining for at least three weeks at the behest of county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. The ruling went beyond state prohibitions, which have not specifically barred outdoor dining.

Ferrer has warned that because of the leap in Covid cases, all residents should stay indoors as much as possible.

But the judge said that Ferrer’s actions were “not based on concrete data.”

The county did not immediately return a call for comment.

The judge’s ruling would appear to be a major victory for landlords, restaurant operators, and commercial brokers who have had to overcome numerous obstacles over the last few months.

City of Pasadena decided to ignore the ban but on Sunday acceded to it and closed outdoor dining. Other municipalities including Beverly Hills have voiced their opposition to the order.

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