Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant on Wednesday ordered county health officials to show scientific evidence justifying the ban on outdoor dining — meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 by eliminating an opportunity for people from different households to congregate without face coverings — which went into effect on Nov. 25.
The California Restaurant Association (CRA) sued to stop the ban before it went into effect last week but on Nov. 24 Chalfant denied the request, asking the group to provide more evidence to support its case. According to Courthouse News Service, CRA members, medical professionals and economists opined and restaurant owners submitted statements.
The ban on outdoor dining will stand for now but the county must return to court on Tuesday to present evidence supporting its order — including data on hospital capacity and ICU beds, and information on the healthcare system’s current risk of being overwhelmed.
“You have to do a risk-benefit analysis for public health. You don’t just talk about the risk of spreading disease. You have to talk about the benefit of keeping restaurants open,” Chalfant said.
Amnon Siegel, an attorney for the county, said the county “understand[s] the pain and hardship that people have gone through over the last nine months” and that knowledge “does absolutely play a role” in making decisions.
Per the Los Angeles Times, the county must also “provide a rationale for deviating from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state reopening blueprint, which permits outdoor dining and requires a risk-benefit analysis for restrictions that are stricter than those of the state.”
CRA says it is pleased the judge agreed that L.A. County must show cause for its ban.
“As we’ve repeatedly said, [Los Angeles County’s] order was arbitrary and targeted restaurants unfairly, without supporting evidence,” Jot Condie, president and CEO, of CRA said in a statement following Chalfant’s order. “This ruling doesn’t mean that outdoor dining can immediately resume in L.A. County, particularly since the county has since issued a stay-at-home order. However, it’s our expectation that if the county is unable to produce evidence justifying this decision, then outdoor dining should be allowed to resume as soon as the stay-at-home order is lifted.”