L.A. Bureaucrats Shut Down Restaurants for Selling Groceries Without a Permit

"You cannot just decide you want to sell groceries," said Barbara Ferrer, the director of L.A. County Public Health.


A few Los Angeles restaurants struggling to maintain footing amid the COVID-19 outbreak identified a clever way to generate revenue while still serving the community: Start selling groceries.

The city's public health department promptly shut them down. The reason? The small businesses don't have a "grocery permit."

"It's not really possible for a restaurant to become a grocery store," Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health, said in a briefing yesterday. "You cannot just decide you want to sell groceries."

Why anyone can't do exactly that—exchange goods with those who want to purchase them—remains a mystery. Such licensing laws are typically put in place in the name of public safety, but one wonders how this decision could possibly help protect the public.

The restaurants-turned-grocery stores actually provide a rather obvious public health benefit. They are significantly less crowded than traditional grocery stores, which is convenient when considering that every major health organization has advised individuals to maintain a six-foot distance from surrounding passersby.

"Elderly people in the neighborhood really enjoy coming to Bacari PDR," Robert Kronfli, the co-owner of one such restaurant-turned-grocery store, tells Reason. Foremost, "it was a super chill shopping environment," he says, with "only one or two people in there at once." Contrast that with the major chains, which have been overwhelmed with an onslaught of patrons. "They're afraid to go to large supermarkets right now because of the lines and because of the social distancing thing."

A local health inspector shuttered Bacari on Friday morning, citing the establishment's lack of a license.

Kronfli's store offered another advantage to the local area: "We have inventory," he notes, including toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies—the very items that notoriously disappeared from shelves weeks ago when fears started to spread around COVID-19. Many patrons flocked to his business for those goods, he explains, and they also appreciated that they could touch and feel the produce without worrying as heavily about how many hands had touched it first.

Though he says that his conversation with the county health inspector "hit a brick wall," Kronfli is appealing his case to the California Restaurant Association, to Councilman Mike Bonin (D–11), and to the L.A. Department of Public Health. He's hopeful that the city will grant him the right to run his fledgling grocery business again. 

"I mean, it's COVID-19, right?" Kronfli muses. "Everyone's doing unprecedented stuff."

He's right, but the government recognizing an entrepreneur's right to sell groceries really shouldn't be all that unprecedented.

NEXT: America Could Import Countless More Face Masks if Federal Regulators Would Get Out of the Way

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  1. Just stay open, keep serving the elderly, and invite the news cameras to come cover the “health department” try and shut you down.

    1. In the coming weeks, you’ll see hundreds and thousands of these kinds of confrontations. Until cops shoot someone for “not respecting their authority.” One hopes that most cops will sensibly ignore rousting people trying to make an honest buck while helping out their community.

      1. Most cops are cops simply so they can project their authority on others.

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      2. A couple of weeks? You are being optimistic. I give it a week at most.

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    2. It’s California. The message would be that restaurants are profiteering off hungry, desperate people.

  2. “what gallon of milk? that’s a large Alfredo to go.”

    1. You know who else was a large Alfredo?

  3. It’s not groceries, it a raw food restaurant!

    1. Yes, and restaurants are non-essential to government and are supposed to be closed.

      1. But it’s not a restaurant … it’s a grocery store. Now it’s essential.

        1. Calling a restaurant a grocery store should be as easy as calling myself an: African American lesbian, trans white male.

      2. Only a buffoon wants politicians (people widely known to be petty, corrupt liars) deciding what’s essential and what’s not, then using the violent power of the police state to deny everyone those things not considered essential.

        1. Most politicians are buffoons. Oh look…

      3. Restaurants are closed to dine-in customers but are still providing to-go orders for pick-up or delivery. For a lot of us, eating is essential.

      4. But health inspectors going around enforcing licensing restrictions… THATS an essential job, obviously?

  4. Government has truly caused this problem. As incompetent as the feds were, blocking a local response, and tricking everyone into relying on them, the locals are worse. The commercial food supply chain is flooded because Sysco, US Foods, etc, lost all their customers but had all kinds of orders and inventory, and unique suppliers. So doofus bureaucrat shuts down access to this supply chain becuz permits.

    In the meantime, the City of LA, County, and state of CA are blatantly violating the Constitution with the flimsiest of findings to support their quasi-martial law. I guess we get the government we choose and Californians love them some leftist democrats.

    Who knew the top of the Mezirow Pyramid for societies was to become a bee in a hive, ordered around, with no self-actualization at all.

    1. Progress uber alles

    2. I think you may have confused Mezirow with Maslow. Although Mezirow had some interesting ideas, also.

  5. “It’s not really possible for a restaurant to become a grocery store,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health, said in a briefing yesterday. “You cannot just decide you want to sell groceries.”

    “I mean, what do these people think this is: a free country?”

    1. In other words, their license to sell a prepared salad isn’t sufficient for us to think they can be trusted to also sell an uncut head of lettuce.

  6. “I mean, it’s COVID-19, right?” Kronfli says. “Everyone’s doing unprecedented stuff.”

    No, LA bureaucrats are doing no unprecedented stuff.

    1. Bureaucrats everywhere are doing unprecedented stuff.

  7. I wonder where all the commenters from the mask importing article are, talking about how these regulation are necessary and you can’t trust restaurants to sell groceries because certifications save lives

  8. How to get your ex lover back contact Ededetemple @ gmail. com

    1. How about getting the Constitution back?

  9. “Dr. Ferrer received her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Brandeis University”
    A little digging into this woman, her photo, and her alma mater are enlightening.

  10. OMG! How did people negotiate grocery transactions before bureaucrats??

    1. Everyone died. Everyone. Didn’t you hear?

      1. It’s true. I did some research into how people bought their groceries during Colonial times, and I discovered that every single one of those people who bought groceries back then are now dead.

  11. It’s cold comfort, but the City of LA and the County of LA are at odds here. And the “city” doesn’t have a public health department.

    LA City mayor: “I think this is absolutely a time for people to be creative, to relax whatever rules as long as people are operating with safe distancing in critical businesses to help people get food and to help people survive… That’s my philosophy, but that is a call for County Public Health.”

    1. Not a comment to your post. Just reminded me of a 30 year old lyric from a dead poet.

      It’s cold comfort
      To the ones without it
      To know how they struggled
      How they suffered about it
      If their lives were
      Exotic and strange
      They would likely have
      Gladly exchanged them
      For something a little more plain
      Maybe something a little more sane
      We each pay a fabulous price
      For our visions of paradise
      But a spirit with a vision
      Is a dream with a mission

  12. A restaurant’s food inventory is perishable. They can’t cook it and sell it to people. They can’t sell it to people raw. What the fuck are they supposed to do, throw a shit ton of fresh food in the trash?

    1. And amongst the homeless, there was much rejoicing.

  13. Safe food is necessary for getting yourself protected from COVI-19.a cool way to improve

  14. A Sikh family that runs a gas station outside of Indianapolis has been giving away free meals they’ve prepared. Vegetarian dishes from India. It’s making the rounds on social media and warming hearts. My first thoughts were: thankfully they aren’t in California.

  15. They’re demokrats.
    You’ll have to bribe them.

    1. I’m pretty sure the GOPers have their greasy hands out as well.

      The UniParty is on a roll. They pretend to be different until it comes to spending $2 Trillion and then the Senate passes it 96-0. Wow, what a difference in parties, eh? What every happened to the party who complained about Obama’s bailout? Screw both parties.

  16. There are at least 4 bath and body works within 5 miles of my home and their hand sanitizers are staying put on the shelf behind locked doors – unless they’re being recalled by HQ to be sold online.

    I’m going to need a hair cut pretty soon. A few people on twitter are wondering if computer repair shops are essential business. As far as I can see those places are also closed.

    CA will have to consider more businesses as essential as prolonged shutdown leads to more demands.

    1. “ I’m going to need a hair cut pretty soon”

      Ah yes. Food/water/clothing/shelter..and a hair cut.


      I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

      1. Oh, just stop it. These fools will put us into a Great Depression and we will all be under Socialism when it is all over. This is more hype than anything else. Ever notice that the death rates in America are purposely never compared to anything? That’s because they wouldn’t be so terrifying then. Also, do they know 100% that those who died actually had COVID-19? A lot of these tests aren’t that reliable. False negatives and false positives. Roll the dice.

  17. Meanwhile Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the State Health Services to issue guidance allowing restaurants to sell bulk retail products from the restaurant’s supply chain distributors directly to customers. “Guidance” is that the food must be in its original condition.
    Dang. Now more people will want to move here.

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  20. People of L.A., these are the bureaucrats YOU put in power!

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    1. Yup. They are getting Socialism, that they allowed in to power, GOOD AND HARD.

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  22. Political discussions almost always devolve into the Wisdom of hoodwinked crowds. People forget facts, but they remember stories, and they usually prefer fiction.

  23. Can’t have people engaged in commerce without the government collecting its baksheesh.

  24. It’s hilarious to watch all these bureaucrats faced with such unexpected conditions. They are completely incapable of thinking or functioning without having some rigid guidelines to refer to.

    1. Hilarious? This food will probably go to waste. It should be open season on politicians.

  25. The stupidest part of this story is probably that if they’d been selling the same stuff from a shopping cart on the sidewalk in front of their building (which is equipped with safe and inspected storage/prep facilities) they might have been completely untouchable.

    PDR is in the city limits of L.A., where there’s no permit or regulation required for “street vendors”, wheras the brick & mortar restaurants and food trucks are regulated and controlled through their government-issued permits/licenses

  26. No good deed ever goes unpunished in Commie California. If things get ugly enough, the politicians will be lucky if they aren’t tarred and feathered and hauled around on a rail. Screw politicians. They only get in the way when there is an emergency.

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