Los Angeles County Banned Outdoor Dining. There's Zero Evidence It Spreads COVID-19.

Restaurant owners speak out about the "crippling" order, which will last at least three weeks.


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On November 22, Los Angeles became the only county in America this winter to ban outdoor dining.

The order, which will last a minimum of three weeks, will be financially devastating for many restaurants and could lead would-be diners to congregate in venues that are less safe.

There's no evidence that outdoor dining has contributed to the spread of COVID-19, nor has indoor dining been particularly risky. Los Angeles County public health data identifies 16 restaurants where the virus was spread, but this occurred among employees and not customers. Restaurants don't even make the county's top five list of COVID-19 exposure sites. The county has found that most restaurants comply with its health orders, and cases fell throughout the summer even while outdoor dining was permitted.

"I personally feel like we're being punished," says Kat Turner, a chef and partner at Highly Likely cafe in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles.

"They've shut us without saying, 'Hey, here's a solution…This is how we're going to help you get through this period,'" says David Combes, the executive director of Botanical Hospitality Group. The company owns two restaurants in West Hollywood, including E.P. & L.P., which was forced to shift to outdoor rooftop dining. 

Combes says he and his partners have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure the restaurant can provide a safe and compliant outdoor dining experience. They haven't turned a profit since it reopened.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued the order the weekend before Thanksgiving, citing a 108 percent increase in cases and rising hospitalizations.

"Even if you're outdoors, gathering with people you do not live with can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19," said the county's public health director, Barbara Ferrer. Though she estimates from the county's contact tracing efforts that 10 to 15 percent of COVID-19 transmissions are linked to "dining experiences," she hasn't clarified how many of those transmissions were attributed to outdoor dining at restaurants and declined to provide the underlying data when quizzed by reporters at a recent press conference.

Combes believes that restaurants are paying the price for the county's lack of comprehensive contact tracing and testing.

"It feels like we are being disadvantaged by a lack of process from L.A. County," says Combes. "And now…for political optics…the first thing we're going to do is we're going to shut down restaurants and bars."

Turner worries that shutting down outdoor dining will only push people indoors to less safe settings.

"It's stupid. I think people are still gonna want to get together. And now they're going to do it inside at other people's homes instead of meeting outside at a restaurant to have dinner," says Turner. 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to uphold the health department's order. The California Restaurant Association has already filed suit against the county.

Turner says she worries about the unintended consequences of an indefinite shutdown of one of the only relatively safe places in Los Angeles where people can gather.

"I think it's completely irresponsible to shut down outdoor dining. What we have here is good for the community, and it's good for the economy, and it's good for our staff, and we're doing it safely," says Turner. 

Produced by Zach Weissmueller.

Photo credits: Sarah Reingewirtz/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Music credits: "Fused," "It Was Time We Let Go," and "Like We Used To" by Stanley Gurvich.


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    1. We need a tier system like in California:

      Tier 1: Stocks and Pillories
      Tier 2: Tar and Feathers
      Tier 3: Guillotine

      1. You need to revise for consistency.
        Tier 3: Drawn and Quartered

        1. You’re on the team!

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  1. So Gavin Newsom will have to cancel some plans, I gather.

    1. Nope. I expect to find him at the French Laundry at 10:00pm. Nothing to see here, laws are for other people.

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    2. Perhaps this doesn’t need to be said, but Gavin Newsance does not live in Los Angeles, so he’ll be just fine. And in his defense, he did not make this call. The guidance the State health dept put in place (shitty as it is) does not call for closing outdoor dining. This is a whole level of wackiness in excess of the State’s craziness.

      1. FWIW, Newsome has announced a more or less full statewide lockdown (they use the euphamism “safer at home order”, so the sheep don’t notice he’s up on two legs). Along with a request that people get out and spend some $$$ at their local small businesses to help them deal with the hardships of having been forcibly shut down by the State/County/Local governments for most of the last year.

      2. No unelected county level health officer should have that kind of power to destroy someone’s livelihood. A real Justice Department would be filing federal civil rights charges (that come with a 10 year prison term).

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    3. The actress who played Dobie Gillis’s creepy stalker Zelda Gilroy on the 50’s TV series, Sheila “Ghoul” Keuhl (James), is now a member of the LA County Board. Immediately after voting to ban outdoor dining, she headed for her favorite restaurant for an outdoor meal. I would imagine she called Gavin Newsom to have a good laugh. “The little people are soooo stupid, right Gavin?”

  2. Party of Science!!!

    1. The kind that does not need data.

      1. It’s the massage and the cherry-pick that count. Certain politically-or-otherwise-motivated Scientists in positions of influence are experts at massaging the input data to make it fit the desired output.

    2. The party of Newspeak.

      You need to understand that when translated from leftist to english, the phrase “believe in science” actually means “trust whatever Al Gore says that the scientists are saying about how cars will end all life on the planet”.

      Paying attention to the actual data or the opinions of those who understand the actual science of what the data means plays no role in being “the Party of Science”.

  3. Well how the hell are they supposed to shut down houses of worship if you people won’t even let them shut down a restaurant!

    Stop your bitching; the government will provide food, entertainment, and spiritual fulfillment.

    (feel like I should go ahead and add a “/sarc” because who the hell can tell anymore)

    1. The new statewide orders exempt protesting and religious services. I guess they didn’t want more First Amendment lawsuits.

  4. If your a polititions or state employee these restrictions do not apply to you, it’s only the lay person that deserves to suffer

  5. Does anyone at this point care what California does?

    1. I wouldn’t care if their political lunacy was confined to their state. The problem is that the state, specifically the SF to SD corridor, is the national equivalent of a metastatic tumor.

      1. Not quite. The part of that corridor between Carmel and Santa Barbara want nothing to do with the loons running the state.

    2. Consider that whatever California does usually gets foisted on the rest of the country at some point.

  6. I’m betting every single one of these idiots interviewed votes democrats. The get what they deserve

    1. Yep.

      The complaint is not that government did something to fuck them over, it’s that government didn’t do enough….

      Hey, here’s a solution…This is how we’re going to help you get through this period[.]

  7. These rules are so fucking arbitrary. I know a couple of people on the left who are concerned about this, but most think it’s just hunky dory that a politician can issue arbitrary rules on a whim. The Rule of Law benefits all people regardless of their ideology.

    My state now has a curfew. As if the virus is only active after 10:00pm or something. WTF? But to make matters worse, my county issue rules today that everyone entering the county from more than 150 miles away must quarantine for two weeks. WTF? Are cops going to be checking my mileage now?

    No, cops aren’t going to. Cops have better things to do. Most counties in my state have announced that they will NOT enforce the curfew order. I violated curfew just last week. Eleven PM and I was out in my car driving. Cop passes me, didn’t even give me a second look. He had better things to do.

    1. And yet you are happy an authoritarian won the presidency who pushed these same types of regulations. Weird. Almost like you don’t actually care about liberty. You only care about cosplay as a libertarian because it lets you pretend you don’t tacitly support these actions.

    2. Your acquaintances aren’t going to care unless it fucks them over personally. Every single liberal yuppie has been cheering these measures on since March and demanding more, because they still collect a paycheck and can pay their bills.

      It won’t be until these assholes are staring in the face of financial ruin that they’d bother complaining.

      1. That’s how it worked in the 60s. Facing the draft, or your loved one came home in a body bag, then you got active opposing the Vietnam War.

      2. This.

        Show me someone who supports all these restrictions, and I’ll show you a suburban white woman who 1) can sit on her fat ass wearing sweats and eating bon bons while doing 30% of the work she’d normally do, yet still collect a paycheck, or 2) a suburban housewife who’s Just So Happy™️ about all the time she can spend with dear hubby (who collects a full paycheck) and doesn’t want to miss out on her lunchtime fuck.

    3. Santa Clara County I gather. Banned all contact sports too. 49ers are not happy.

      1. They are going to play the next few games in Phoenix. And I guess the next few games after that, since it’s over 150 miles away. Sorry Newsom, pro athletes’ income taxes are pro-rated to the state where each game is played.

        The Stanford basketball team is in Maui for a pre-season tournament (I guess that’s essential travel). But it’s also over 150 miles away, so I guess they can’t play anyone else for the 2 weeks after they return.

    4. The people who get their information exclusively from CNN/NPR/MSNBC have been scared into backing the Newsom/Garcetti/UTLA plan of keeping everyone locked in their basements (ironically, very few houses in L.A. have basements) cowering in terror until it can be conclusively proven that no human will ever have to risk encountering a microbe in the wild ever again.

      I’m just waiting for the day that Newsom goes full “12-Monkeys” and announces that we’re going to surrender the surface world to the virus and just start living underground in a network of tunnels that will be dug by diverting funding from the HSR project.

      1. I think Elon Musk started the tunnels a few years ago, with his Boring Company.

  8. like I can’t walk down Rodeo with a hot dog?

  9. Real lockdowns have never been tried!

  10. There is a tipping point; CA politicians seem determined to find it.

    Welcome to the revolution.

    1. Spent Friday night in LA with a friend of mine for my birthday. She pointed out that the restaurant shutdown came with a five day warning, meaning it wasn’t really an emergency, because if it was an actual emergency, it’d have been effective immediately.

      She also said that she’d been at a restaurant last week and asked the server what he was doing for Thanksgiving. His response was: “Sacking the Capitol.”

      So yeah, might be revolution a-brewing.

      1. I’ll believe it when Newsom and every single public health bureaucrat in Sacramento is dragged out of their house and hung from a eucalyptus tree. Until then, they aren’t doing shit.

          1. Headline as it reads now:
            California’s Newsom Warns Of “Dramatic, Arguably Drastic” New Restrictions To Come As Hospitalizations Hit Record Highs: Live Updates

        1. Yeah, same, but it’s nice to dream. 😉

  11. It is a wonder that nobody is looking at the death numbers in the US again. Well, almost nobody. JHU decided to take a look and published a paper… then retracted it within 48 hours for political reasons.

    Major finding:

    The study found that “This trend is completely contrary to the pattern observed in all previous years.” In fact, “the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19.”

    1. There is a good reason it was retracted -> they manipulated the data really badly. Here is the CDC comparing the number of deaths this hear against the last 5 years from all causes:

      A simple subtraction shows 360K deaths more than the average up to this point during the year, and 250K more than the highest value you might get under “normal” conditions.

      1. No, it wasn’t retracted due to manipulated data dummy. Go read the JHU statement on the retraction. It was retracted solely based on political pressure since people began to use the study to stop panicking.

        Why does your side lie so much? There was no manipulation of the data. The study is still posted on the JHU site with a note as to why they retracted it from publication. You are free to actually go to the site and read it and the note.

        It was only retracted due to political pressure.

      2. Also, do you find it curious that you are basically claiming all excess deaths are due to Covid? 3 million people die every year in the US on average. The variance around that 3 million is a few hundred thousand depending on the year. You are using a comparison to an average to try to declare a deep analysis of the numbers as invalid.

        You’re an idiot.

        1. A lot of them are due to the lockdowns.

      3. Peter i think the point others have made above (I believe an article by Nardz here or on another post about media only being doom and gloom and Jesse’s study) is that the way you are framing the numbers is not a great way to rationally talk about this. It’s basically panic porn to get to a desired response instead of a rational conversation of people making their own choices. People are sick of folks trying to scare them because they are scared (Tony is a perfect example since he’s completely evil and tries to make points with shaming tactics and belittling) If I so choose to believe these are all covid even with your numbers above the monthly excess death total only is increased to the total population by a percent of .000009% See; I can frame my numbers too doesn’t look so bad this way does it?

    2. Data is a baseless conspiracy theory with no evidence

  12. The restaurants and diners should unite and bring a “class-action” lawsuit against the government there, mostly dems, who have so much corrupt money and can afford to settle this. Mostly, the only thing the corrupt leftists understand is an attack on their money!

    1. I doubt that, under current judicial interpretations, they would have “standing” to sue.

      1. They won’t have received harm until after they go out of business, and after they go out of business it will be a moot point because they waited too long

    2. Why do you think they’ve closed restaurants (primarily single-owner small businesses operating on very thin margins in the best of times) but left big-box retailers alone?

      The “deep pockets” calculus cuts both ways.

    3. Class Action against the State is pissing into the wind.

      The judges are all Dem appointees who agree with the ruling party that the Constitution is a hindrance to the creation of the authoritarian utopia that would have already existed if they could just have raised taxes to 105% on any transaction (including barter, making change, and people moving out of the state).

      If the State did somehow lose, it’d go the the 9th Circuit who pretty much work from Mao’s LRB, and if they lost there the State would simply raise taxes to cover the cost of whatever judgement happened plus the legal costs of the AG’s office hiring an outside law firm to handle the case.

    4. And everyone would win a voucher for a free restaurant meal, courtesy of the taxpayers.

  13. You know what decreases your risk of catching COVID? Being dead.

    1. The only known cure.

    2. The CA Dem party will settle for us pretending to be dead in the name of “surviving”. After all, according to CNN the fatality rate for anyone coming into contact with someone who’s been exposed to Covid-19 is about 75%, with an additional 60% having permanent organ damage. Don’t believe the CDC propaganda that says it’s possible to have the virus and recover fully with no permanent effects…

  14. “Though she estimates from the county’s contact tracing efforts that 10 to 15 percent of COVID-19 transmissions are linked to “dining experiences,” she hasn’t clarified how many of those transmissions were attributed to outdoor dining at restaurants and declined to provide the underlying data when quizzed by reporters at a recent press conference.”

    That’s the fundamental problem isn’t it? Instead of providing the data and the science so we can make informed decisions. Government become order-makers. Claiming to “follow the science” they hide the science and force compliance to their unjustified orders using the police state.

  15. I can only assume at this point that cities and counties are in a “Race to the Bottom” where they can be first in line for bailout money.

    Los Angeles is full of celebrity chef’s restaurants, and those celebrity chefs by and large are part of the Independent Restaurant Coalition that is pushing the RESTAURANT Act- which is basically a bailout of the industry.

  16. Yeah unfortunately there is plenty of evidence at this point showing that restaurant dining is a relatively high risk activity, based on contact tracing studies. It’s not hard to find if you read JAMA, which has been producing a COVID-19 special newsletter since the pandemic began.

    Outdoor dining is *less* risky, but it depends on the prevalence of the disease as well as adherence to mask wearing. LA is unfortunately not doing so well in these regards.

    I have been a Reason subscriber for 12 years and a JAMA subscriber for the past 10. I expect better than motivated reasoning in Reason magazine.

    1. Yeah unfortunately there is plenty of evidence at this point showing that restaurant dining is a relatively high risk activity, based on contact tracing studies.

      Not really. The vast majority of cases are in prisons and nursing homes, with schools making the big push in the last 2.5 months. Restaurants and entertainment are the same level as grocery stores, and “small gatherings” even less.

    2. OC (basically a giant suburb of L.A.) has been a lot less compliant about mask wearing than L.A. County, and they made it to being two tiers less severe than L.A. County before Newsom pulled the “emergency brake” and just declared basically the whole state to being back to the most stringent rules, and about a week later now, he’s more or less shutting down the whole state to the level that L.A. County has pretty much been at since April.

    3. Apparently you don’t read the articles either. Restaurants aren’t in the top 5 COVID spread sources according to LA County data, and the cases they have traced to restaurants are among employees, not customers.

  17. Meanwhile, in my county, outdoor dining is the only option allowed now, and it’s about 24 degrees fahrenheit outside at dinner time currently, with a 15mph breeze.


    1. Hey, at least the drinks stay cold.

  18. This is an amazing killer pandemic to be feared by one and all and everyone should just stay locked in their closets at home and never come out again until the “vaccine police ” come around to poke them full of holes. So amazing is the death count in the US where this year there will be some 30-40,000 FEWER deaths from all causes verses last year. So where are all the added pandemic deaths? Well, as with all fake pandemics, there are none. This is true throughout the world where there will be no more total deaths verses 2019. This has been a fake pandemic where deaths from the flu and other similar causes have been coded as Covid. What about the normal flu that should be ramping up this time of year? It’s gone with the wind as there are no reported cases. More proof we have been royally scammed by a totally fake pandemic.

    1. But at least we had an election free of fraud

  19. The fatal flaw in your argument against these rules is that the rules would be justified if they could be proven to stop the spread of COVID. When you put people’s rights to assemble and do business up for negotiation based on the spread of a virus, you’ve admitted that rights are negotiable.

    1. If such behavior could be proven to stop the spread, rules wouldn’t be needed. Rules are needed only because people aren’t convinced.

    2. ‘When you put people’s rights to assemble and do business up for negotiation based on the spread of a virus, you’ve admitted that rights are negotiable.’

      so called ‘rights’ have always been negotiable; they are conferred by authority figures, and they are withdrawn by same…when the first alpha male caveman said to his rivals ‘I will allow you to live instead of killing you’ the first human right was doled out, and the first time a rival tried to stick a spear into the leader, that first right was then ‘negotiated’ away…

  20. I can see both sides. However, Since it’s outdoor I side with the Businesses

  21. I say everyone defy the lock-down orders. They can’t bloody well get all of you. Remember how easy it has been for ANTIFA/BLM RIOTERS to TOTALLY OVERWHELM POLICE in places like Portland, Minneapolis?

    1. LA County is evil though. They cut off the power and the water to homes and businesses that defy their edicts.

      1. Were ANY suits brought over this? I do not see how it can be legal to shut off services paid for already.

  22. 40 year Los Angeles restaurant operator here. I’ve been through restaurant floods, restaurant fires, riots with curfews, lawsuits, an EEOC complaint (settled for the grand sum of 150 dollars…without a lawyer!), break-ins…and TWO armed robberies…but this covid over-reaction is going to take us down. We thought we were “gliding down the highway [to retirement]…but in fact we’re slip sliding away” I just can’t get that song out of my head LOL

    Defying the lockdown will not work here because…well…this IS California/Los Angeles. More than half the customer base are rabid lockdown cheerleaders. They see nothing wrong with shutting down business if it will save even one life…doesn’t matter that it’s been going on for more than 8 months and counting because we need to save the people. You cannot talk logic…or economics… to these types. Our particular area is a union town (Port of LA)…everyone secure with their paychecks whether they work or not. You would be put on blast on the local FB pages and boycotted.

    Our 5 county supervisors, all of whom are from the ‘party of science’ have refused to justify the outdoor dining ban. One large study regarding restaurant dining has a major flaw…mainly that the study participants did not differentiate whether they dined indoors or outdoors…and there’s a whole lot more BS where that came from.

    At this point, our best chance rests with the California Restaurant Association. They will be back in court Tuesday morning with declaration the judge requested … so fingers crossed

    1. After reading your experience owning a restaurant in LA, I’m wondering why? What tremendous positive outweighed all of those negatives? Do you think it’s time to move to a more supportive business location?

      1. Hard to sell a business right now that can’t earn any money.

  23. Yet somehow the boxing fuck-around at the Staples Center this weekend was deemed essential:

    “This s–t is like two of my uncles fighting at the barbecue.” – Snoop Dogg

  24. And literally mere hours after being the deciding vote to close all LA restaurants outdoor-dining facilities, this from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl:

  25. The party of fear-based science strikes again.

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