Coronavirus

California Judge Blocks Enforcement of State and Local Bans on Restaurant Dining in San Diego County

The decision says the government failed to present any evidence of virus transmission in restaurants that follow COVID-19 precautions.

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A California judge this week blocked enforcement of state and local orders prohibiting dining in San Diego County restaurants, finding no evidence that such bans help curtail the COVID-19 epidemic. "Given every opportunity," San Diego County Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil said, the county and the state have "provided the Court with no evidence that San Diego County businesses with restaurant service, such as Plaintiffs' establishments, who've implemented protocols as directed by the County, present any risk—much less a greater risk than before Governor Newsom issued his December 3, 2020 Regional Stay at Home Order."

The case involves two strip clubs with restaurant service, Cheetahs Gentlemen's Club and Pacers Showgirls International, which initially challenged local cease-and-desist orders. Gov. Gavin Newsom subsequently issued an order that imposes many restrictions, including a ban on both indoor and outdoor restaurant dining, on regions where the available ICU capacity has fallen below 15 percent. That order currently applies to all of Southern California, including San Diego County, and Wohlfeil included Newsom in his preliminary injunction.

Wohlfeil noted that the plaintiffs had implemented various COVID-19 precautions, including physical distancing, masks for employees, and sanitization. They are following "all provisions of the State of California Industry Guidance for restaurants, wineries and bars." Dancers perform in roped-off areas at least 15 feet from tables, and patrons are not allowed to approach them. No COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced to either business.

"The County possesses contact tracing data and has the power to produce such evidence to refute Plaintiffs' assertions that Plaintiffs providing live adult entertainment and San Diego County businesses with restaurant service, such as Plaintiffs' establishments, subject to protocols, do not present any risk," Wohlfeil noted. Yet the county failed to produce any such evidence, leading Wohlfeil to conclude that the strip clubs "have done nothing to contribute to the spread of COVID."

More generally, Wohlfeil said, the government had not presented any evidence implicating restaurants in the local spread of COVID-19. To the contrary, he noted, San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, who sent the cease-and-desist letters to the strip clubs, last month was saying that "penalizing sectors like restaurants and gyms for the case increase is wrong." She also worried that the "closure of indoor restaurants during wintertime will move people into homes and encourage high risk gatherings."

State and local officials now say restricting restaurants to delivery and takeout (not really a viable option for the plaintiffs in this case) is justified in light of the continuing increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. But as Wohlfeil noted, that argument hinges on the assumption that restaurants are a significant source of virus transmission even when they follow public health precautions, which the government has failed to demonstrate.

Last week a Los Angeles County judge ruled that a local ban on outdoor dining was "not grounded in science, evidence, or logic." Around the same time, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly admitted that the same thing is true of Newsom's ban on outdoor dining. Ghaly said that policy is "not a comment on the relative safety of outdoor dining" but is instead aimed at discouraging Californians from leaving home.

Wohlfeil's injunction applies to indoor and outdoor dining, and it covers Newsom's order as well as the county's restrictions. The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday editorialized that his decision "must be quickly overturned." The paper said "a precedent that authorities must have specific proof that indoor businesses are risky before they face restrictions invites chaos—and at the worst possible time."

The Union-Tribune expressed sympathy for the view that bans on outdoor dining are not scientifically justified. "A credible case can be made that outdoor dining with adequate social distancing is generally safe, even now with virus deaths at record levels," it said. "Research in many nations shows relatively little outdoors transmission."

But the same cannot be said of indoor dining, the paper argued: "There is vast agreement among public health authorities that spending time indoors in a room with strangers—whether at a grocery store, a gym, a strip club or a restaurant—is a surefire way to spread the virus. Spending time at a restaurant drinking indoors is an invitation to disaster."

Other things being equal, it is certainly true that indoor settings are more dangerous than outdoor settings. At the same time, it clearly is not true that visiting "a grocery store, a gym, a strip club or a restaurant" is "a surefire way to spread the virus." Local and state governments across the country, including California's until recently, have allowed these businesses to continue operating, subject to occupancy restrictions and other safeguards. Grocery stores and other retailers throughout California are still allowed to operate as long as they follow state guidelines. If those precautions do not reduce the risk of virus transmission to a tolerable level, what is the point of requiring them?

If virus transmission in these settings is inevitable, as the Union-Tribune insists, the government should be able to cite at least a few COVID-19 infections that occurred there. But in this case, Wohlfeil said, the county and the state offered no evidence beyond general concerns about upward trends in COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Is "specific proof that indoor businesses are risky" really too much to ask for when the government plans to wipe out people's livelihoods in the name of fighting COVID-19? Given all the arbitrary, illogical, and scientifically dubious restrictions politicians have dreamed up, as exemplified by California's ban on outdoor dining and New York's onerous restrictions on houses of worship, such questions are long overdue.

NEXT: Why Use Two Doses of COVID-19 Vaccines When One Works Almost as Well?

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  3. Haha, I love the “restaurant” that Vox Light used for the picture on this article. Stay Classy San Diego!

    1. I like that COVID is the thing legally keeping you 15 feet from strippers right now.

      Catching herpes in the champagne room was totally acceptable, but COVID? Get the velvet ropes!

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          1. Haven’t seen much to comment on. A lot of Orange Man Bad, they stole the election back and forth and multiple Sullem Orange Man lost the election but won’t admit it stories. Between that and Sarc, WK, DoL, Chipper, Sqrsly etc gloating about Biden’s victory, the comment section hasn’t been worth getting involved with.

            1. This.

              That group of assholes thoroughly shit up every fucking comment section on here. Wish they’d shut the fuck up, instead of having their idiotic hubris have them think slinging shit back and forth several times a day makes a difference.

              Fuck those guys. And the right wing assholes that go right along with them.

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        3. In Oregon they went to drive-through lap dances.

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    2. “The case involves two strip clubs with restaurant service, Cheetahs Gentlemen’s Club and Pacers Showgirls International, which initially challenged local cease-and-desist orders.”

      I suspect that this might be the reason that picture was used.

      1. Yeah, probably. But my 12yr old sense of humor… hehe boobies…

      2. The case involves two strip clubs with restaurant service

        I’m guessing they don’t have such a robust ‘to-go’ service?

        1. IDK. Having a stripper deliver me food would be quite the site for lonely, stuck at home, eyes. And, San Diego has pretty temperate weather so they could run this service year round…

          1. They could really do it anywhere. Gets me thinking of 80s spreads in Playboy when nothing but boots and a fur coat were all the rage.

            Call it ‘Food in a Flash’.

            1. “Food with Flesh”

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          2. Been a while but we used to go to the local strip club from work for lunch from time to time. The food was excellent and cheap. Give the girls something for the effort and back to work.

    3. Isn’t it the strip club as referenced in the article?

    4. Um did you miss the part of the article where the lawsuit was brought by Cheetah’s?

      I know it was only like the whole article, so you may have missed it by only reading the headline before commenting

  4. Since public health has been the focus during this pandemic, the long term fallout for rights will be interesting. In no way can anyone say that the doctrine of equal protection has been adhered to, and that disdain for equal treatment has largely been coming from one side of the aisle.

    1. the tragedy is something that got lost when sides of the aisle even became a factor. businesses sent people to work from home, march madness was canceled, movie releases were pushed, grocery stores and every business was sanitizing like mad. the Olympics were postponed, plastic was going up at registers, people were staying home more, most churches were offering online services……. all of that was happening before anything became political. when we were responding to this thing together, we were doing what needed to be done. we were adapting as one people.

      and then….. the lock-downs started….. everyone was onboard and doing the right thing until somebody else decided to try and take that choice from them. and, people often respond poorly when you do that. we have a government telling people to do things when they shouldn’t and people not doing things they should just because the government told them to.

      1. “…all of that was happening before anything became political.”

        I see you’re not in CA. None of that happened until the shut down, and most of it happened quite a bit later.

        1. California was the first to really jump the gun on bringing the pain, but march madness was canceled a week before even California did anything. it all happened very quickly, and time can tend to blur perception…… but people were responding before anyone tried to force anything. i do honestly believe that if governments had not tried to force action, we would be in a better place today. nobody has ever liked anything we are doing right now, but nobody had any excuse to refuse to do it until the government overstepped it’s role. we have greater healthcare capacity, because we don’t have socialized medicine, and we had not reached the point where we were testing capacity. history will probably try to give them a pass, because nobody was sure of that….. but that is what caused the problems that may make it difficult to remain below capacity levels as we are in the holiday season, now.

          1. Corona is a psyop by the national security state – it’s a deception. The reason why things started in March is because the CIA handlers didn’t brief the media about what they were supposed to say about the fake epidemic until February at the Sundance Film Festival. That’s the annual gathering of CIA media assets where they get their talking points and instructions on what to lie about for the year. At that point, they brought in the “cruise ships” as a big in-joke based on “crusiing” because the script of the psyop is “let’s give everyone AIDS.” I used to work in media and can tell you all about the CIA and their moles and the way they lie.

        2. and most people are ignoring it now, unless they have a county inspector checking on their business (if it’s even survived this long).

          the day after the SF Bay area went into “full lockdown” there was no noticeable change in traffic.

    2. The long term fallout should involve lethal health hazards to those progressives that seek to infringe on our rights. Some should be compulsory.

    3. CA only has one side of the aisle in gov’t.

      1. A Mobius strip, so to speak.

  5. But what about Trump?

    1. I’m pretty sure Trump is pro boobies.

      1. The Biggest! The Best!

    2. Trump’s lack of leadership is why all the restrictions in California didn’t work and cases are spiking right now.

  6. good. the government has no business shutting anyone down, ESPECIALLY if they are taking what precautions they can. shutting down outside dining is probably the most absurd thing they have tried yet. these businesses made huge investments to expand outside dinning and to comply with the strictest of measures to try and survive…. and then you just arbitrarily shut them down?

    better question…. who is going to a strip club where the girls can’t get closer than 15ft?

    1. You can expel the virus at both ends, so the ladies are wearing masks and diapers.

    2. The restaurants in Colorado have enclosed the outdoors with thin transparent plastic walls and installed heaters, even though the temperature is below freezing and there’s snow on the ground, because indoor dining has been outlawed. It’s outdoors in name only and heating it is expensive.

      1. the point is that those businesses took on that expense to try and comply….. and then someone arbitrarily decided to shut them down anyway….. we should not be punishing those who are trying to make things work in a responsible way.

    3. maybe they can rent you binoculars as another income stream?

  7. So glad we have unelected judges to tell our representatives what science and logic are. Looking forward to them recommending the death penalty for climate change deniers.

    1. “So glad we have unelected judges to tell our representatives what science and logic are…”

      Me, too. Which rep was it who was concerned with Guam capsizing? Those folks need all the help they can get.

    2. that’s literally why we do have judges — so someone sane can interpret the law and stop a panicked mob from trampling peoples’ rights.

    3. We have had judges doing that for two hundred years.

      Ask a grown-up what Marbury v. Madison is.

  8. Sleepy Joe will solve this problem.

  9. Went to a ‘speak-easy’ holiday party this afternoon.
    Not quite ‘knock three times’, but you did have to know the side entrance.
    Mixed mask wear; some moving it only to take a pull from the drink, others, just leaving them off (me among them).
    This is SF where obedience to gov’t diktats is pretty common; there is hope.

    1. BTW, SF is now requiring ‘quarantine’ for anyone arriving from, well, somewhere else.
      WIH does that mean and HIH do the bureaucrats intend to enforce it?
      “San Francisco’s travel quarantine is almost a secret at SFO”
      […]
      “Around the sparsely occupied airport was barely a mention that anyone staying in the city — whether visitor or returning resident — is expected to stay in their home, rental or hotel room for 10 days…”
      We can safely assume this new restriction will be a well enforced and effective as emperor Newsom’s earlier efforts. And those who voted for this clown will do so again.

      1. Newsom will never be elected again. He’s about as popular as a power outage with a broken window and coulds of smoke from the unchecked fires drifting in.

        1. So who will primary him?

          Tariq Nasheed?

          Katie Hill?

  10. “Attorney Jason Sacuzzo, who represents Pacers, argued Wednesday that there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 transmission traced to either club since Wohlfeil issued the temporary restraining order in early November.”
    Try a little thought experiment here. Let’s take three scenarios where one might expect Covid to have spread;
    1) Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family
    2) Dinner out with the family at the local bistro
    3) A bunch of men out hooting at some titty dancers.

    In scenario two, tables might be put at 6′ apart and those sitting there are likely to be related. In number one, no public distance enforcement is possible and there is a mix beyond immediate family. In scenario three, the six people allowed at each distanced table are far less likely to be family members at all. And in none of the locations is masking requirements likely.

    So the risks of transmission for each are significantly greater than limiting gathering to immediate family. However, the first scenario cannot be made illegal.

    Regarding the likelihood of tracing any particular case to any of the above cases varies hugely. A private gathering in a home where someone who tests positive is far easier to trace, both because everyone there is known, but also because there is likely to be some concern for them by the tracee. A dinner out is far more difficult to trace beyond one’s immediate group; nobody knows the names of the people around them at a restaurant and probably don’t care much about them either.
    Finally consider the likelihood of the average visitor to a strip bar actually participating in a program that would require them to disclose to a bunch of sort of acquaintances (or worse, to maybe a wife) their whereabouts. Fat chance.

    No wonder nothing’s been traced to the strip clubs.

    1. What was your point?

      1. “1.3% transmission from indoor dining” doesn’t actually mean anything. Which is probably true, but libertarians (and most conservatives) are a process-oriented people, so these arguments just don’t have much effect.

    2. Meh.

      Strippers are no threat to a wife unless you are obsessive about it.

      Nothing is ever traced to the strip club. Kinda like Vegas or New Orleans that way.

    3. Can you teach us the secrets of the universe?

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  12. Whaddayaknow. Actual science trumps “Science!!!”

  13. The reason they are shutting down restaurants and strip clubs has nothing to do with coronavirus.
    They are against capitalism and all these small businesses are the foundation of capitalism in America.
    Closing them down, and driving them out of business, will cement their owners’ and employees’ dependence on government relief checks.

    1. and steer all the commerce to large companies, which are more easily held in fear of Twitter boycotts and woke employee work stoppages.

  14. We are destroying our economy based on the best guesses of bureaucrats vice actual science. This is stupid. With all this contact tracing going on, if restaurants really were hotbeds of virus spread, there would be ample evidence to support it – but there is not.

  15. We are destroying our economy based on the best guesses of bureaucrats vice actual science. This is stupid. With all this contact tracing going on, if restaurants really were hotbeds of virus spread, there would be ample evidence to support it – but there is not. The only thing dumber is letting newspapers decide what is prudent.

    1. There is no ample evidence. In a country the size of the US with the number of cases out there we are long past the point where contact tracing is even possible. Most people have no idea how they got the virus.

      There is no science of this other than empirical methods to try and slow down transmission. Those really depend on what the public is willing to do.

      California, central and Southern California in particular is near or at breaking point in ability to deliver medical care. People should do everything they can to limit transmission.

        1. Twitter?

          1. It was a link to a video of a mass gathering in Los Angeles, California in June.

    2. The economy is simply people working.

      Death prevents people from working permanently.

      1. Like the Jewish Holocaust, right Herr Misek?

  16. I’m surprised they haven’t banned calling strip clubs “gentleman’s clubs” because that’s sexist.

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  18. The US is a shitshow.

    The “United States” are obviously divided.

    Places that care about each other will emerge from this pandemic stronger. Vice versa.

    Those who don’t want to find common ground are the stooge fodder needed by the real enemy who seeks weakness through division.

    Smarten up.

  19. This is a pysop – an intelligence operation. The National Security state has lots of controlled judges who take instructions. Until we start talking about the National Security and intelligence aspects of what is essentially a great deception, we will not get to the bottom of what is going on – and this includes the propagandists at Reason who pretend to be journalists.

    1. What evidence makes you think that all the people dying from covid19, aren’t?

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  21. “State and local officials now say restricting restaurants to delivery and takeout (not really a viable option for the plaintiffs in this case) is justified in light of the continuing increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.”

    Takeout and delivery strippers. Kind of requires a whole different conversation, but maybe it’s in the pipeline.

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